VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A Vatican document on Monday said the Church should consider ordaining older married men as priests in remote areas of the Amazon, a historic shift which some say could pave the way for their use in other areas where clergy are scarce.
The recommendation, contained in a working document prepared by the Vatican for a synod of bishops from the Amazon scheduled for October, also called for some kind of “official ministry” for women in the area, although it did not elaborate.
It was the most direct mention ever in a Vatican document of the possibility of a married priesthood, albeit limited, and a greater ministerial role for women in one area of the world.
The document spoke of the possibility of ordaining what are known as “viri probati” – Latin for men of proven character – to deal with the shortage of priests. Such men would be elderly, outstanding members of the local Catholic community and with grown-up families.
“While affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, there have been requests that, for the most remote areas of the region, (the Church) studies the possibility of conferring priestly ordination on elderly men, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted members of their communities,” the document said.
The synod on Oct 6-27 at the Vatican will include bishops and other representatives, including indigenous peoples, from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.
At the end of their conference, participants will vote on various articles in a final document, which will then go to the pope, who will decide whether to make it an official Apostolic Exhortation based on the synod meetings.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky