SHARE
COPY LINK

RELIGION

Vatican’s Amazon indigenous outreach considers permitting priests to marry

Pope Francis will gather Catholic bishops at the Vatican Sunday to champion the isolated and poverty-struck indigenous communities of the Amazon, whose way of life is under threat.

Vatican's Amazon indigenous outreach considers permitting priests to marry
Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

The eyes of the world have recently been on the world's largest rainforest, which is vital for the planet but is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years, due in part to an acceleration in deforestation. 

The working document for the “synod”, which mainly brings together bishops from nine Pan-Amazonian countries, denounces in scathing terms social injustices and crimes, including murders, as well as suggesting a Church action plan.

The run-up to the three-week synod, or assembly, saw some 260 events held in the Amazon region involving 80,000 people, in a bid to give the local populations a voice in the document.

It comes just as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change sceptic, told to the United Nations that the world's media were lying about the Amazon, and attacked indigenous leaders as tools of foreign governments.

“Listen to the cry of 'Mother Earth', assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development… which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards,” the 80-page document says.

In his 2015 encyclical on ecology and climate change “Laudato Si”, Francis denounced the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in the name of “enormous international economic interests”.

Last year the world's first Latin American pope visited Puerto Maldonado, a village in southeastern Peru surrounded by the Amazon jungle, to meet thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Brazilians and Bolivians.

There he slammed in particular “illegal mining” of gold and the “slave labour or sexual abuse” it created.

That trip was the first step towards this synod, which opens Sunday with a mass in St. Peter's Square.

Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Married men as priests? 

Francis champions what he terms “integral ecology” — or the inextricable link between humans and nature. “To the aboriginal communities we owe their thousands of years of care and cultivation of the Amazon,” the working document reads.

It also reflects the pope's desire to protect the world's poor, vulnerable and downtrodden, and his criticism of a socio-economic model that discards them as “waste”.

His hopes of bringing the Catholic faith to far-flung populations will see the bishops gathered in Rome debate a highly controversial proposal — allowing married men to become priests.

“We have a shortage of ordained priests to celebrate mass. Eighty percent of the communities in Brazil have a very poor sacramental life,” said Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Pan-Amazon Church Network (REPAM).

The issue deeply upsets some traditionalists, who argue that making an exception for the Amazon would open the door to the end of celibacy for priests, which is not a Church law and only dates back to the 11th century.

Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

The German Catholic Church in particular, which has an influential progressive wing, has been hotly debating the subject.

The synod, which runs until October 27, will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church.

“If women are excluded, half of the Church is excluded,” said Sister Laura, an Italian missionary who has worked in the Pan-Amazon region for 10 years.

Of the 184 prelates at the synod, 113 hail from the Amazonian region, including 57 from Brazil.

Others taking part include 17 representatives of Amazonian indigenous peoples and ethnic groups, and 35 women — who will not have the right to vote on the final document.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy’s Easter Sunday message

Pope Francis proclaimed vaccines an "essential tool" in ending the pandemic in his Easter Sunday address and urged their swift rollout to the world's poorest countries.

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy's Easter Sunday message
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi Blessing, after celebrating Easter Mass on April 04, 2021 at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)

On the holiest holiday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics and the second under the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the Pope focused his message on the world’s most vulnerable – the sick, migrants, people facing economic hardship, and those living in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor,” the 84-year-old Argentine said, speaking to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” he said, calling on the international community to overcome delays in distributing vaccines, “especially in the poorest countries”.

READ ALSO: Children lead the way in Italy’s reduced Good Friday service

Francis, who has focused on the plight of vulnerable groups since becoming pope in 2013, had already warned rich nations against vaccine hoarding in an address to the UN General Assembly in September.

The pope said it was “scandalous” that armed conflicts around the world had not ceased. He called for an end to the war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions”, and in Yemen “whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

A deserted St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican, after the Pope’s Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

He also expressed his closeness to Myanmar’s youth – “committed to supporting democracy” – called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged an end to violence in Africa, citing Nigeria, the Sahel, Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world,” Francis said, adding that April 4th marked an awareness day against landmines, “insidious and horrible devices”.

An Easter message in Lockdown before a key month in Italy

The Pope’s Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) message in the Vatican came as 60 million Italians spent the Easter holiday under lockdown.

The whole of Italy, the first country in Europe to have been hit by the coronavirus, has been declared a high-risk “red zone” from Saturday through Monday, with restrictions on movement and restaurants closed along with non-essential retail.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What can you do this Easter in lockdown Italy?

Despite the gloom, there have been hopeful signs that vaccinations are gaining pace in Italy, while infection rates dipped in late March – although emergency rooms remain under enormous strain.

April is set to be a crucial month for Italy’s vaccine rollout, with authorities hoping to administer 300,000 doses per day within two weeks, according to the country’s coronavirus commissioner, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.

Three regions, including that of Veneto, which includes Venice, are also preparing to slightly loosen their anti-coronavirus rules from Tuesday onwards, passing from the most restrictive “red” zone to “orange”.

SHOW COMMENTS