Pope Francis has reportedly said he will allow for debate as to whether married men could be ordained to the priesthood in the region during a 2019 Synod of Bishops focusing on the Church in the Amazon basin.
His comments came in response to a question on the matter from Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, according to the newspaper Il Messaggero.
The comments have been broadly interpreted in media outlets to mean that Pope Francis is considering opening the door for priests throughout the Roman Catholic Church to get married. However, the Pope’s comments in response to Cardinal Hummes were specifically about whether “viri probati” or “proven men” could be ordained to the priesthood. Such men, who have displayed virtue and prudence, are thought by some to be a possible solution to a shortage of priestly vocations in Brazil.
Dr. Kurt Martens, a canon lawyer and professor at The Catholic University of America, said there is no reason to think that the Pope’s comments mean he is open the door to the married priesthood throughout the Church.
“Even if the synod would recommend or ask for the ordination of viri probati in the Pan-Amazon area, it is important to note that the Pope still would have to accept the request and make it into law, and it would most likely be limited to that area,” Martens told CNA in e-mail comments.
“So we are not talking about changing the law on celibacy for the whole Church: it would be the ordination of viri probati for only that region,” he added.
The ratio of Catholics to priests in the Amazon is region is 10,000 to one, about three times the worldwide ratio of Catholics to priests throughout the world, and more than five times the ratio in the United States.
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