A Vatican document has called on the church to allow for the ordination of married men as a way to counter the shortage of clergy in remote regions.
A Vatican document said Monday the Church should consider ordaining older married men as priests in remote areas of the Amazon.
The move would represent a historic change in the church, which some Catholic scholars say could incite for taking the same decision in other zones of the globe facing lack of clergymen.
The document spoke of ordaining “men of proven character” “viri probati” in Latin. Such men would be older, with grown-up families, and prominent and respected members of the local Catholic community.
"While affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, there have been requests that, for the most remote areas of the region, (the Church) studies the possibility of conferring priestly ordination on elderly men, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted members of their communities," the document explained.
As only priests can offer Mass or hear confessions, Catholics in remote communities in the Amazon can remain months without taking part in either of the Church’s seven sacraments.
“Communities have difficulty in celebrating the Eucharist frequently due to the lack of priests. For this reason, instead of leaving the communities without the Eucharist, the criteria of selection and preparation of the ministers authorised to celebrate it should be changed,” Vatican argues.
Pope Francis already stated in 2017 that he was disposed to consider ordaining "viri probati" men as priests in isolated communities like in the Amazon. He has also mentioned their possible use on remote Pacific islands. But he rejected the idea of opening priesthood to all married men or making the Church’s commitment to celibacy less effective.
In an upcoming church assembly, which will be held in October, bishops and other representatives, including indigenous peoples, from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana will vote on various articles which will then be submitted to the pope.
For decades now the Church is struggling with a shortfall of priests. A growing lack of interest in the vocation, a severe fall in church membership and sexual abuse scandals are known to be some of the reasons for this phenomenon.