Amazon Synod fathers recommend married priests, women deacons, ‘Amazonian’ liturgy
VATICAN CITY, October 21, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Participants in the Pan-Amazonian Synod have produced reports recommending “new paths” in ministry for the region, including the ordination of married indigenous men, the creation of women deacons, and the invention of an “Amazonian rite.”
The participants were divided into two Italian language groups, four Portuguese language groups, five Spanish language groups, and one English/French group whose report was nevertheless produced in Spanish.
The Italian groups noted that some synod participants had recommended the ordination of married men to the priesthood. Italian Circle A added a note of caution, saying that some Synod fathers had warned that this could affect “all continents”, “reduce the value of celibacy” and even discourage missionary efforts.
“They believe that, by virtue of the theological principle of synodality, the subject should be subjected to the opinion of the whole Church and therefore suggest a universal Synod in this regard,” Italian Circle A wrote.
Italian Circle B also acknowledged that some Synod fathers had expressed doubts about the “lack of reflection upon the causes that led to the proposal of overruling” the law of celibacy.
Two of the Portuguese language groups were much less conservative. Portuguese Circle A stated that married indigenous men should be ordained to the priesthood. Portuguese Circle B stated that this is “considered necessary for the Pan-Amazon region”. Portuguese Circle C said that “options” regarding viri probati should be explored. Portuguese Circle D did not mention the issue.
Spanish language groups also discussed the question. Spanish Circle B stated that it was proposed that married priests should not be treated like “second-class priests”. On the other hand, the group noted that Synod fathers were divided on the question of whether or not the question should be decided apart from other bishops.
Spanish Circle C recommended at least considering ordaining married indigenous men to the priesthood so that more “ecclesial communities” of the Amazon region could have more frequent recourse to the Eucharist:
“... The Holy Spirit continues acting within these communities and distributing gifts and charisms, so that there are also responsible, married men of good reputation, who are models of virtuous citizenship and are good community leaders, who feel the call to serve the people of God as instruments for the sanctification of the people of God,” they wrote.
“It will be important to discern, through consultation with the people of God and with the discernment of the ordinary of the place whether it is convenient for those people to be properly prepared and subsequently chosen for presbyteral service.”
The English/French Circle asserted that “talk about the ‘shortage of priests’ is specific to churches” which have long had enough priests in the past.
While this is now seen as a “crisis” in those churches, the groups pointed out that in Africa, for example, there have never been enough priests to offer Mass every Sunday.
They wrote: “The Word is food as well as the Eucharist,” and added that the word "priest" has many meanings. “He who offers sacrifice does not need to be a leader of the community,” nor to be a pastor. “History and theology have brought together too many things: teaching, santifying, ruling. We must accept that different situations require different initiatives. God encounters us in real life.”
The Italian groups were also relatively conservative about a “new path” for women in ministry. Italian Circle A recommended that the ministries of lectors and acolytes be conferred on women, “avowed religious or lay”, and that the Episcopal Conference of the Amazon ask the Holy See to create a “new ministry” for “community coordinators,” male and female. Italian Circle B did not mention women’s ministries.
Two of the Portuguese language groups, A and B, explicitly recommended the institution of women deacons.
Portuguese Circle A asked Pope Francis to “allow for the Pan-Amazon region, men for the priestly ministry, and women to the diaconate, preferably indigenous, respected and recognized by their community, even if they already have constituted a stable family, for the purpose of assuring the provision of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life of the community (IL 102,2). In this way, we will give a feminine and maternal face to the Church.”
Portuguese Circle B used generations of female saints and the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate to argue their case.
“Given the decisive presence of women in Salvation History, such as Mary, and in the Mission of the church, of female Saints, doctors, and counselors of Popes; given that the presence of women is decisive in the life and the mission of the Church in the Amazon and that Vatican Council II restored the Permanent Diaconate for men – because it is good and useful for the Church – we judge that this same argument is valid for creating the Diaconate for women in the Amazonian Church,” they wrote.
Portuguese Circle C stated just that there should be “options” concerning women, whereas Portuguese Circle D did not mention expanded ministerial roles for women at all.
Spanish Circle A stated that it is “necessary for women to take up pastoral and administrative responsibilities: there should be a recognition of women in the Church through ministry. It is therefore that there should be Synod dedicated to the identity and service of women in the Church where women have a say and a vote.”
Spanish Circle B said that it “encourages further discussion of this issue and its future possibilities rather than its historic past.” It also “recognizes that many of the functions of this ministry are being undertaken by the women of Amazonia, since it is they who sustain in many places the permanent presence of the Church and nourish the processes of the Faith.”
Spanish Circle C argued that “given the tradition of the Church, it is possible to recognize women’s access to the institutions of lector and acolyte, as well as the permanent diaconate.”
Spanish Circle E recommended a ministry for women but drew the line at ordination. It stated: “Regarding the mission that women have in the Church, an official ministry is proposed for women in the Church, which would incentivize and favor their participation in ecclesial leadership that does not require the Sacrament of Ordination.
Both Italian groups mentioned the proposal for an “Amazonian Rite” in favorable terms. Italian Group A stated “Symbols and gestures of local cultures can be valued in the liturgy of the Church in the Amazon, preserving the substantial unity of the Roman rite, since ‘the Church does not want to impose a rigid uniformity in what does not affect the faith or the good of the whole community, also in the liturgy (SC 37).
Italian Group B cites over 20 different rites in the Catholic Church, “a clear sign of a tradition that from the first centuries has tried to inculturate the contents of the faith and their celebration through a language that was as coherent as possible with the Mystery to be expressed. All these traditions originated according to the mission of the Church (see CCC 1200-1206).” Italian Group B asked the Synod to support “the new path of their own ‘Amazonian Rite"’ with which to express the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual heritage that belongs to them, with particular reference to what Lumen Gentium affirms for the Eastern Churches.”
Portuguese Circle A requested the creation of an Amazonian rite and the reinstitution of the indigenous peoples’ shamans, writing:
The people of the Amazon region are a religious people, with a popular piety. The spirituality and wisdom of the ancestors and mariology bring their own manifestation in their faith life. For this reason we request the creation of an Amazon rite using the theological, disciplinary, and spiritual patrimony that expresses at the same time the universality and catholicity of the Church, in the Amazon, and for the respect for the rites of every people. We also request the recovery of their religious leadership (the pajés, the Xamãs).
Portuguese Circle B stated that “in the evangelization with regard to cultures, the [Latin American] Indian theologies should be valued, and there should be an effort to translate the Scriptures, to adapt Christian rituals, to use the rituals of the peoples, and carry out their own processes of initiation to the Christian life and the elaboration of their own liturgy.”
Portuguese Circle C concentrated on Amazonian vocations instead of asking for a unique liturgy.
“For a Church with an Amazon face it is necessary to seek indigenous vocations, the consecration of virgins and widows at the diocesan level, and to constantly seek the autonomy of human and financial resources,” they wrote.
Concerned about “ethnocide”, Portuguese Circle D stated that the rituals, habits, and even religious beliefs of the cultures of the Amazon be respected by Christian missionaries.
“Ethnocide should be combatted because it kills culture and the spirit. Therefore, the missionary should divest himself of any colonialist mentality and should respect the customs, rites, beliefs, habits, of the people of that culture,” the group stated.
At the same time, Portuguese Circle D said that the way aboriginal people “express their faith, through images, symbols, traditions, rites, and other sacramentals should be appreciated, accompanied, and promoted. It recommended that “patronal feasts should be used as a privileged moment for evangelization and oriented to the mystery of Christ”, that “popular devotions should be illuminated by the Word of God,” and that “it is necessary to give an appropriate catechesis that accompanies the faith that is already present in popular religiosity ...”
Spanish Circle D also mentioned the proposal for an Amazonian rite, saying that the Church needs to bring together an Indian Theology and this Amazonian rite, “that is, a theology and a liturgy with an indigenous face, based on the spiritualities of the original peoples and their religious and mystical experiences.”
Spanish Circle E said that, in order to inculturate the liturgy, the Church should “create commissions charged with preparing an Amazonian rite, translations of the Bible into native languages, as well as promoting and accompanying expressions of popular piety.”
The prelates and priests responsible for the reports
The names of those in the groups were not published, apart from those of their moderators and reporters. It may be significant that Cardinal Maradiaga’s group, Spanish Circle E, explicitly ruled out women’s ordination, albeit recommending a formal “ministry,” as the Honduran prelate is one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors.
It is also worthy of note that Italian Group B, which recognized the reluctance of some Synod participants to abolish the law of celibacy, was moderated by Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer, the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Finally, Archbishop Edmundo P. Valenzuela Mellid, S.D.B., who moderated Spanish Circle B, was added to the committee charged with drafting the final report by Pope Francis.
- Italian Circle A was headed by Bishop Flavio Giovenale, S.D.B.(moderator) and Fr. Dario Bossi, M.C.C.J. (reporter).
- Italian Circle B was headed by Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria Ferrer, S.J. (moderator) and Archbishop Filippo Santoro (reporter).
- Portuguese Circle A was headed by Bishop Jesús M. Cizaurre Berdonces, O.A.R. (moderator) and Bishop Neri J. Tondello.
- Portuguese Circle B was headed by Archbishop Pedro Brito Guimarâes (moderator) and Bishop Evaristo P. Spengler, O.F.M.
- Portuguese Circle C was headed by Archbishop José B. Da Silva, OFM (moderator) and Bishop Vilsom Basso, S.C.J (reporter).
- Portuguese Circle D was headed by Archbishop Alberto Taveira Corrêa (moderator) and Bishop Wilmar Santin, O. Carm.
- Spanish Circle A was headed by Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes (moderator) and Archbishop José L. Azuaje Ayala.
- Spanish Circle B was headed by Archbishop Edmundo P. Valenzuela Mellid, S.D.B. (moderator) and Bishop Francisco J. Múnera Correa, I.M.C. (reporter).
- Spanish Circle C was headed by Bishop Jonny E. Reyes Sequera, S.D.B. (moderator) and Fr. Roberto Jaramillo, S.J. (reporter).
- Spanish Circle D was headed by Archbishop Omar de Jesús Mejía Giraldo (moderator) and Fr. Alfredo Ferro Medina, S.J. (reporter).
- Spanish Circle E was headed by Cardinal Óscar A. Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B. (moderator) and Bishop José J. Travieso Martín, C.M.F. (reporter).
- The French/English Circle was headed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J. (moderator) and Bishop Emmanuel Lafont (reporter).
The Pan-Amazonian Synod has finished its second week of discussions. A final draft will be prepared this week for a vote by the Synod fathers and then submitted to Pope Francis to use or discard as he prefers.
Editor's note: LifeSiteNews' Martin Barillas and Matthew Hoffman contributed to this report.