The Vatican will soon consider allowing some married men in the Amazon region of South America to be ordained as priests, in order to help alleviate a shortage of Catholic clergy there.
In a document released on Monday, the Catholic Church announced that the question will be debated at a synod — a special meeting — to be held at the Vatican from October 6-27. A decision could allow married priests in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
“While affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is asked that for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even those who already have stable and consolidated families, be studied in order to ensure the sacraments to accompany and sustain Christian life,” the preparatory document for the synod said.
Pope Francis has previously suggested in interviews that he would be open to allowing some married men in remote regions to become priests.
Ordaining some married men as priests is not the same as allowing priests to marry. The document reaffirms the Catholic Church’s position on celibacy for the priesthood.
Although the Catholic Church currently only ordains unmarried men to the priesthood, some converts, from Anglicanism for example, are allowed to become Catholic priests even if they are already married.
The synod will also include discussion of women’s roles in the Catholic Church in the Amazon, indigenous peoples and environmental issues.