Most bishops who lead dioceses in the Amazon support the ordination of married men of proven virtue, or viri probati, as a way of addressing the lack of priests in the region, said the retired Bishop Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil, speaking to journalists after a Vatican press briefing on Oct. 9. “I guess that [of] the bishops who are in the Amazon region, two-thirds are in favor of the viri probati,” he said.
At the briefing, Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, said that synod members have described the uniqueness of the Amazon region, which has “dioceses as big as nations.” He added, “Viri probati does not mean changing the law of celibacy in the church” but, “depending on the discernment” that takes place in the synod, “this law, like all human laws, can have exceptions in concrete cases.”
On this point, Bishop Kräutler said there are thousands of indigenous communities in the Amazon that “do not celebrate the Eucharist except perhaps one, two or three times a year.”
“The Eucharist, for us Catholics, is the source and summit of our faith,” the bishop continued. “For the love of God, these people don’t have it!” The bishops in favor of ordaining married men, he said, “are not against celibacy. We just want these brothers and sisters of ours not to have just a celebration of the word but also the celebration of the Eucharist.”
Several speakers at the synod have also proposed the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate.
“The Eucharist, for us Catholics, is the source and summit of our faith,” Bishop Kräutler said. “For the love of God, these people don’t have it!”
At the press briefing, Bishop Kräutler said that two-thirds of the communities in the Amazon are “coordinated and directed by women, so what do we do?” He added, “We hear a lot about announcing the role of women, but what does it mean?… We need concrete solutions. I’m thinking of the women’s diaconate.”
Bishop Kräutler told journalists after the briefing that while he was not sure how many bishops supported this proposal, he believed that “many of the bishops are in favor of the ordination of female deacons.”
When a journalist asked if this proposal were part of a push for the ordination of women as priests, Bishop Kräutler asked rhetorically, “Why are women [not able] to be ordained? Why?” Asked directly whether he supported the ordination of women as priests, he responded, “Yes. Logically.”
But when pressed as to whether the synod would lead to ordaining women as priests, Bishop Kräutler said, “No.”
He added, however, that the synod “may be a step” in that direction.
The Vatican communications team reported that discussions in the synod hall today involved topics like the permanent diaconate, Christian Base Communities, the common priesthood of the faithful through baptism, vocations and formation for ministry, inculturation, migration and “the charisms of women as real ecclesial actors.”
Some synod members have called for the Catholic Church to deepen its theology in a way that would help people recognize “ecological sins.” According to a Vatican News summary of the afternoon plenary session on Oct. 8, members have said that an “ecological conversion” was necessary to ensure that Christians understand the “gravity of sin against the environment as a sin against God, against one’s neighbor and against future generations.”
“No to individualism or indifference that makes us look at reality like a spectator, like looking at a screen,” the summary said. “Yes to an ecological conversion centered on responsibility and an integral ecology that places at its center human dignity, which is too often trampled.”
Through catechesis and particularly in the sacrament of penance, the reality and impact of ecological sins can be explained, Mr. Ruffini said, referring to the words of a synod participant. Like other sins, ecological sins “can be considered either minor or grave, but in any case they offend God and neighbor.”
Ecological conversion is, first and foremost, “a conversion to holiness,” one synod member said, citing the examples of Rudolf Lunkenbein, a German Salesian priest, and Simao Cristino Koge Kudugodu, a lay member of the Bororo indigenous community in Mato Grosso, Brazil, where Father Lunkenbein served. The German priest, known for his defense of indigenous land, was shot and killed in 1976 in the courtyard of the Salesian mission where he lived. Koge Kudugodu died attempting to save Father Lunkenbein’s life and, with his final breath, forgave his murderers.
For this synod, Pope Francis has invited a dozen “special invitees,” including Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, the former secretary general of the United Nations; Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor of sustainable development at Columbia University; and Josianne Gauthier of Canada, the secretary general of the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity.
Special invitees have appeared at two consecutive Vatican press briefings. On Oct. 8, it was Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous leader from the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Administrative Region in the Philippines, strongly emphasized that the rights of indigenous people must be protected, and that the Catholic Church is a moral authority that must speak out when violations of human rights are taking place. Later she added, “The results of this synod will have a very long effect in protecting the rights of indigenous and in protecting the environment.”
On Oct. 9, the briefing included Carlos Nobre, a Brazilian scientist who was part of the team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, having contributed substantially to the Fourth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Presently, he is a member of the Environmental Science Commission of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development in Brazil. In the press briefing, he made several references to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” and said that because this synod called for the contribution of science, a group of scientists had prepared a 10-page document about the “risks and solutions” in the Pan-Amazonian region, the “ecological heart of this planet.”
With content from Catholic News Service.