In a surprising move from Pope Francis, his long-awaited document Apostolic Exhortation in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod, does not not address the question of the ordination of mature married men to the priesthood. Instead, in the text known as Querida Amazonia – Beloved Amazonia, he pitches hard for environmental and social justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests. In a strongly worded critique of destructive capitalism, he strongly critiques the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.
He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them. He devotes almost half of the document to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organisation, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” that gives a greater role for the laity, and especially for women.
And while he does emphasise the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, and highlight the fact that many do not have access to the Eucharist due to the shortage of priests, he does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of suitable and esteemed married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod. He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it.
Pat Coyle spoke with Gerry O’Hanlon, author and theologian about the response and whether it was reason for hope. He first begins by explaining the unusual lyrical and poetic format in which the Pope’s response took.