A diaconate for women, an experimental liturgical rite and the ordination of married men in remote areas have been some of the suggestions so far discussed at the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region, each eliciting a wide range of reactions.
By lunchtime Tuesday, 40 synod fathers and one auditor had spoken on a variety of subjects during the general congregations — sessions held in the morning and afternoon in which each synod participant speaks for a maximum of four minutes.
The speakers have included 15 Brazilian bishops, 12 prelates from other Latin American countries, and synod fathers from the Roman Curia, Canada and Europe.
Among them were Cardinal Michael Czerny, the undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Dicastery for Promotion of Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the prefect of the same dicastery, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops’ conference.
The special assembly, “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” began Sunday and runs through Oct. 27.
As in previous synods during the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Vatican did not give details on who said what, ostensibly to encourage a freer and less inhibited discussion, although Cardinal Marx was an exception. He published his full text.
According to a Vatican-provided synthesis of interventions, subjects so far discussed have included a reflection on “indigenous rites” of the Sacrifice of the Mass that, it was said, should be looked upon “benevolently” if they are “not linked to superstitions,” and provided they “harmonize with a true liturgical spirit,” a synod father said.
Related to this, and as part of inculturation, it was proposed that “according to the right theological, liturgical and pastoral discernment,” a “Catholic Amazonian rite” should be considered ad experimentum. After all, it was stressed, “just as there is an environmental ecosystem, so there is an ecclesial ecosystem.”
A relatively large number of interventions have been made already on the contentious issue of the ordination of married men “of proven virtue” (viri probati ) to bring the Eucharist to remote Amazonian areas where priests are not present.
One synod father cautioned that while it is a “legitimate necessity,” the situation cannot “condition a substantial rethinking of the nature of the priesthood and its relationship with celibacy.” Instead, the importance of evangelization was stressed, to foster vocations among the young, as a lasting means to fill the priest shortage.
But it was also proposed that in the face of “secularism, religious indifference, the dizzying proliferation of Pentecostal churches,” the Church “must learn to consult and listen more to the voice of the laity.” And in this context, the need to bring the Eucharist to the laity was emphasized, offering “permanent” ministers rather than merely “visiting” ones, and even a “permanent indigenous diaconate.”
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