THE Pope has agreed to consider both the ordination of married men to the priesthood and the possibility of a female diaconate to meet the social and pastoral needs in the Amazon region.
The proposals were included in the final document of a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, last week. The document, Amazonia: New paths for the Church and for an integral ecology, which outlines the cultural, ecological, social, and pastoral issues discussed during the three-week synod, was approved by Pope Francis and nearly 200 participating bishops, on Saturday.
The Synod focused on the plight of indigenous peoples in the Amazon, human trafficking, the marginalisation of poor communities, the repression of tradition, and the protection of the rainforest (News, 30 August).
It also spent a considerable time, however, discussing requests for the Pope to consider ordaining married men to the priesthood to address the shortage of clerics in the Amazon, and to commission a study of the possibility of ordaining women deacons. Both were included in the final approved document.
Pope Francis said in his concluding remarks on Saturday: “I would just like to underline this: we still have not realised what women mean in the Church. The role of women in the Church goes far beyond mere functionality.”
A previous study commissioned by the Pope in May could not agree on the “sacramental nature” of ordaining women deacons. Studies should continue none the less, he said, albeit in the context of the pastoral crisis in the Amazon.
During the closing mass on Sunday, Pope Francis said that violence, presumed superiority, and a disregard for the environment had put the future of the Amazon at stake. “In this synod we have had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and reflecting on the precariousness of their lives, threatened by predatory models of development.
“Yet precisely in this situation, many have testified to us that it is possible to look at reality in a different way, accepting it with open arms as a gift, treating the created world not as a resource to be exploited but as a home to be preserved, with trust in God.”
He continued: “How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today. The mistakes of the past are not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth. We have seen it in the scarred face of the Amazon region.”