Vatican City (CNA)—Pope Francis published his response to the Vatican’s 2019 Amazon synod in an apostolic exhortation on February 12. Despite widespread speculation following the synod, the pope does not call for married priests, but seeks to expand “horizons beyond conflicts.”
Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis’ much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation, presents the pope’s “four great dreams” for the Pan-Amazonian region’s ecological preservation and “Amazonian holiness.”
The exhortation does not quote from recommendations made by bishops at the Vatican’s October meeting on the Amazon. Instead, Pope Francis “officially present[s]” the synod’s final document alongside his exhortation, asking “everyone to read it in full.”
The topic of ordaining viri probati, or mature married men, was a point of considerable discussion at the synod, and made waves across the Church.
While Pope Francis did not rebuff the idea directly in his exhortation, the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, addressed it in a column released alongside the apostolic exhortation.
Speaking of priestly celibacy, Tornielli wrote that “the Successor of Peter, after praying and reflecting, has decided to respond not by foreseeing changes or further possibilities of exceptions from those already provided for by current ecclesiastical discipline, but by asking that the essentials be the starting point,” for discussions regarding priestly ministry in the Amazon.
Nearly half of the pope’s own 24-page document is dedicated to outlining the pontiff’s “Ecclesial Dream” for the Amazon region, in which Pope Francis stresses the singular role of the priest, while affirming the laity’s ongoing contributions to evangelization.
“No Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist…. This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” Pope Francis wrote in the exhortation, published February 12.
In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis warns against an outlook that restricts “our understanding of the Church to her functional structures.” The pope also rejects a narrow vision of “conceptions of power in the Church” that “clericalize women.”
“Efforts need to be made to configure ministry in such a way that it is at the service of a more frequent celebration of the Eucharist, even in the remotest and most isolated communities…. There is also a need for ministers who can understand Amazonian sensibilities and cultures from within,” Pope Francis wrote.
“The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world. This is why it is important to determine what is most specific to a priest, what cannot be delegated. The answer lies in the sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures him to Christ the priest. The first conclusion, then, is that the exclusive character received in Holy Orders qualifies the priest alone to preside at the Eucharist,” Francis said.
The pope called for revision to “the structure and content of both initial and ongoing priestly formation” to be more pastoral and in dialogue with Amazonian cultures. Francis said that “the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority” is required in the region, calling for more permanent deacons and women religious to address the Amazon’s challenges.
Following the controversy sparked by the presence of indigenous statues at Vatican events during the Amazon synod in October and the subsequent apology by Pope Francis for “Pachamama” being thrown in the Tiber River, Pope Francis uses the post-synodal apostolic exhortation to appeal for unity and sensitivity to the over 110 distinct indigenous cultures in the Amazon.
Pope Francis presented his four dreams—social, cultural, ecological, and ecclesial—for the “Beloved Amazon” region with indigenous poetry interspersed throughout the apostolic exhortation.