Pope Francis has denied a proposal from bishops in the Amazon to let married men be ordained as priests and women as deacons.
The proposal, which was first presented in October, was suggested as a means of fixing a “serious clergy shortage” in the South American region, NPR reported.
It was approved at the time by more than two-thirds of the voting members who attended the fall summit, according to The New York Times.
But on Wednesday, the pope issued a letter that did not mention ordaining married men — an omission the Times reported was a “pocket veto of the proposal.”
Instead, he suggested that the lack of clergy be addressed by having those who are already ordained go to those remote areas to practice their faith.
The three-week Synod of Bishops in October included countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela, all of which have been dealing with a shortage of priests, thus preventing them from properly celebrating sacraments, according to NPR.
“They can’t have a priest for weeks or months, which, if they can’t have a priest, that means they can’t have Mass. If they can’t have Mass, they can’t have the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the thing that Catholics consider to be the bread of life, the thing that keeps us alive spiritually,” Rocco Palmo, editor of the website Whispers in the Loggia, told the outlet.
The pope’s rejection of the “potentially momentous” proposal will likely be seen as a victory for conservatives, who have viewed his focus on inclusivity as a “grave threat” to the traditions of the faith, the Times reported.
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Meanwhile, NPR reported that conservatives feared that should the pope allow married priests in the Amazon, it “could trigger total abolition of the clerical celibacy requirement.”
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Andrea Tornielli told the Times that the pope’s letter “demonstrates a thought that supersedes the dialectical diatribes which ended up representing the Synod as a referendum on the possibility of ordaining married men.”