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Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes

VATICAN CITY, October 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Hopes that considerations of a married priesthood and women’s “expanded ministry” would be dropped from the Amazon Synod were dashed yesterday.

The issues were presented almost immediately, on the very first working day of the synod, by Cardinal Clàudio Hummes, OFM, its German-Brazilian chairman.

“Another issue consists in the lack of priests at the service of local communities in the [Amazon], with a consequent lack of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, as well as other sacraments,” Hummes said. 

“This means pastoral care made up of sporadic visits instead of adequate daily pastoral care.” 

Adding that the celebration of the Eucharist was “essential” for the “development of Christian communities,” the cardinal said that it will be “necessary to define new paths for the future.” 

Two of the new paths proposed are the ordination of married men from among indigenous people in the region, as well as an “acknowledgement” of the spiritual leadership already provided by women in the Amazon and its consolidation with “a suitable ministry” for them. 

The topic of an expanded ministry for women was addressed in the Holy See’s press conference that afternoon. In response to a question about the ineligibility of women religious superiors to vote at the synod, Colombian missionary Sister Alba Teresa Castillo stressed that women in the Amazon region play a leading role which they hope the Church will eventually recognize. 

“Our participation as women, is as they say in Italian: piano, piano… [little by little] ,” Castillo said. 

“We continue to walk towards the Church, so that the Church will recognize our role more and more, because the presence of women in the Amazon forest is really great. There are very few priests, and many of them must travel from place to place,” she continued.

“However we [women religious] are a constant presence.” 

Castillo underscored that women religious are already performing a priestly function as well as doing work more traditional to religious sisters, like education and health care. 

“We do what a woman can do originating from her baptism,” she said. 

“… When there is need for a baptism, we baptize children. If someone wants to get married, we can celebrate the marriage. Sometimes we also have had to listen to confessions. Of course, we could not give absolution, but in the depths of our hearts we placed ourselves in the position of listening with humbleness, thinking about the person who came to us for a word of comfort, somebody who perhaps is before death.” 

As a matter of fact, anyone at all can baptize someone in the Christian faith as long as they follow the correct formula and intend by their actions what the Church intends. The celebrants of a Christian marriage are, in fact, the couple themselves, and the priest officiating is the Church’s witness. This means that a couple who are free to marry may indeed marry without a priest present, as long as they intend to remain together until death. However, it is true that only a priest can give absolution after hearing a confession.  

Castillo believes that women should have a “greater” role in the Church but doesn’t want to take it by force.  

“Women’s role within the Church, in my opinion, has to be greater,” she said.  

“We will get there, little by little, but we cannot exert too much pressure. I think that through dialogue, through meeting, will be able to respond to the challenges.”