18 February 2020, The Tablet

Amazon group says celibacy rule will be lifted

Amazon group says celibacy rule will be lifted

Catholic pilgrims travel in a boat during an annual river procession and pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Conception along Brazil's Caraparu River in Santa Izabel do Para, in the Amazon jungle, Dec. 8, 2012.
CNS/Paulo Santos, Reuters

Responses to the release of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the Amazon Synod, Querida Amazonia, were mostly divided between those whose hopes for major announcements on the ordination of married priests and women deacons in the region were disappointed, and those whose fears of such announcements were not realised.

The fact that Pope Francis had expressly presented and incorporated the Amazon Synod’s final document in his post-synodal exhortation made it possible to adhere to everything that was decided at the Synod, the general secretary of Repam, Mauricio Lopez, said in interviews with KNA and Kathpress.

Repam, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, is a Catholic Church network set up in 2014 in answer to concerns expressed by Pope Francis. It promotes the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon. “In Querida Amazonia, the Pope reflects on an approach to the question of church offices which will step by step open up new, progressive ways,” Lopez insisted. “That is why we are not disappointed. I haven’t the slightest doubt that the [priestly celibacy] rule will lifted. We see the exhortation as an invitation to continue exploring ways and channels which will perhaps lead to relaxing the rule.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx rejected all speculation that he was resigning as president of the German bishops because of his disappointment over Querida Amazonia. Marx said he had not let anyone except a few associates know of his intention because he wanted to wait until after the first session of the German synodal procedure for church reform. Thomas Sternberg, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, said he was disappointed by “the lack of courage to pursue real reforms” in the exhortation.

On the issue of courage, Pope Francis told a group of 15 US bishops on their ad limina visit to the Vatican that, like them, he is accused of not being courageous or not listening to the Holy Spirit when he says or does something someone disagrees with. “You could see his consternation when he said that for some people it was all about celibacy and not about the Amazon,” said Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee. “He said some people say he is not courageous because he didn’t listen to the Spirit,” Wack told Catholic News Service. “He said: ‘So they’re not mad at the Spirit. They’re mad at me down here,” as if they assume the Holy Spirit agreed with them.

Commenting on the Pope’s refusal in the exhortation to countenance women’s ordination Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne insisted that women’s ordination is not up for discussion as it was definitely not a possibility for the Catholic Church.

“We have Pope St John Paul II’s clear and final ‘no’ to women’s ordination which Pope Francis has just once again confirmed. We are not free to say we will fundamentally review and reassess women’s ordination and then vote on it,” he explained.

Asked if he could understand those women who were not satisfied with this “no”, Woelki said he was aware that the yardsticks of modern society clashed “painfully” with those of the Church. “We need more women in leading positions in the Church who can then also supervise priests,” he said. “But according to Christ’s will, we have no mandate or leverage to ordain women.” The Women’s Ordination Conference, established in 1975, accused the Pope of “wilfully turning his back on the calls of women for recognition of the sacramental ministries they offer the people of the Amazon and the global Church.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro criticised Francis for calling on the global community to protect the Amazon rainforest against mining and deforestation. “Pope Francis said yesterday the Amazon is his, the world’s, everyone’s …Well, the pope may be Argentinian, but God is Brazilian,” Bolsonaro said.

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