This month’s Vatican meeting, called a synod, is dedicated to “new paths for the church” in South America’s Amazon region. Organizers have stressed the ecological topics on the agenda, including deforestation and other threats to indigenous communities.
The most controversial “new path” scheduled for discussion over the next three weeks is the possibility of ordaining married men to serve as priests in the sparsely populated region, where Catholic parishes sometimes go for months without a visit from a priest.
The synod’s official working document calls for considering the ordination of “elders, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life.” Such candidates for the priesthood are known as viri probati, Latin for “proven men.”
The pope has said that the “door is always open” to married priests in remote places such as the Amazon or the Pacific islands. He has also said he needs to pray and reflect further on the question.