Erwin Kräutler, the bishop emeritus of Xingu in the Brazilian Amazon, has said that there is marked disappointment in the region over the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, that emerged from the Amazon Synod held in Rome from 6-27 October 2019 and was published on 12 February 2020.
Kräutler, who was a prominent participant in the Synod, told the Salzburg church paper Rupertusblatt: “I am convinced that for most of the bishops in the Amazon Region it was a surprise and even a disappointment that in … Querida Amazonia not a word was said about opening up the Sacrament of Holy Orders to married men and ordaining women to the diaconate.”
Many bishops “were and still are” looking for a plausible explanation as to why the two above issues were not mentioned. Some of them were of the opinion that the Pope had wanted to avoid a “schism”, and he had “certainly been under great pressure from the Curia” at the time, Kräutler pointed out.
“That was already crystal clear at the synod sessions and during our talks with the Curia. We found very little understanding for the problems and issues of the Amazon Region which we here experience day by day.”
Referring to the detail of the document, Kräutler said he had noticed immediately that there was a “striking break” in the fourth chapter of Querida Amazonia – the chapter entitled “An Ecclesial Dream”.
Pope Francis begins by explaining that a way must be found to get the Eucharist to remote communities, Kräutler recalled and quoted paragraph 89: “The laity can proclaim God’s word, teach, organise communities, celebrate certain sacraments… But they need the celebration of the Eucharist because it ‘makes the Church’. We can even say that ‘no Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist’. If we are truly convinced that this is the case, then every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.”
But in the following paragraph, Kräutler pointed out: “Francis only asks for prayers for vocations and says he wants to see the stabilising presence of mature lay community leaders who have been given the necessary authority to lead communities. We have already had such lay leaders for years only they are not authorised to celebrate the Eucharist with their communities. That is what this is all about.”
However, just because Pope Francis did not mention the issues of ordaining married men to the priesthood and ordaining women deacons in his post-synodal exhortation, this “certainly does not mean that these issues are off the table”, Kräutler underlined. He recalled that right at the beginning of Querida Amazonia Pope Francis had made it clear that he would not be going into all the issues the Synod had gone into and had asked people to read the final Synod document very carefully.
And the final document, Kräutler pointed out, had underlined how important the permanent diaconate for women was in the Amazon Region.
He personally was convinced that the starting point of every discussion on the priestly ministry could not be the tradition of the Early Church but rather the needs of today.