The meeting for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region has approved a final document which calls for the ordination of married men as priests and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination.

One of the document’s most anticipated and likely controversial items is the call by the synod fathers for the ordination of proven married men, so-called viri probati, in the face of an acute shortage of priests in many parts of the region. 

“Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist,” the document says, while noting that some communities go for months, even years between visits from a priest.

The document proposes “to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority… to ordain as priest suitable and esteemed men of the community, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted and stable family, to sustain the life of the Christian community.”  

These criteria, together with each individual paragraph of the text, was approved by a two-thirds vote of the synod’s voting members. 

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, the retired head of the Xingu prelature in Amazonian Brazil, told reporters that the proposal for the ordination of married men was not a surprise. 

“It is what we expected, of course,” Kräutler said. The article passed by a margin of 128-41.

The synod’s final document explicitly linked the proposal to allow the ordination of married men to ministry in “the most remote areas of the Amazon,” but recognized that several of the synodal participants “were in favor of a more universal approach to the subject.”

The synodal document also called for new and enhanced ministerial roles for women in the life of the Church in the region. 

The bishops also recognized that in the Amazon “the majority of Catholic communities are led by women,” and asked “for the institution of a ministry for ‘women’s leadership of the community’ to be created and recognized within the service of the changing demands of evangelization and community care.”

The bishops also noted that “in a large number of these consultations, the permanent diaconate for women was requested.” 

During the press conference on Saturday, Paulo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications confirmed that the pope hoped to issue a post synodal apostolic exhortation “within a relatively short period of time.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.