Pope Francis’ Amazon exhortation calls for holiness, not married priests

Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis’s much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation, presents the pope’s “four great dreams” for the Pan-Amazonian region’s ecological preservation and “Amazonian holiness.”

Pope Francis accepts a plant during the offertory as he celebrates the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 27, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Courtney Mares / Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis published his response to the Vatican’s 2019 Amazon synod in an apostolic exhortation Wednesday. Despite widespread speculation following the synod, the pope does not call for married priests, but seeks to expand “horizons beyond conflicts.”

Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis’s much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation, presents the pope’s “four great dreams” for the Pan-Amazonian region’s ecological preservation and “Amazonian holiness.”

The exhortation does not quote from the recommendations of the bishops at the Vatican’s October meeting on the Amazon. Instead, Pope Francis “officially present[s]” the synod’s final document alongside his exhortation, asking “everyone to read it in full.”

The topic of ordaining viri probati, or proven men, was a topic of considerable discussion at the synod. While Pope Francis does not address that topic directly, the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, addressed it in a column released alongside the apostolic exhortation.

Speaking of priestly celibacy, Tornielli wrote that “the Successor of Peter, after praying and reflecting, has decided to respond not by foreseeing changes or further possibilities of exceptions from those already provided for by current ecclesiastical discipline, but by asking that the essentials be the starting point,” for discussions regarding priestly ministry in the Amazon.

“He asks us to begin again with a vivacious and incarnated faith, with a renewed missionary thrust rooted in the grace that allows room for God to act rather than on marketing strategies or the communication technologies relied on by the religious influencers,” Tornielli added

Nearly half of the pope’s own 24-page document is dedicated to Pope Francis’ “Ecclesial Dream” for the Amazon region, in which the pope stresses the singular role of the priest, while affirming the laity’s ongoing contributions to evangelization.

“No Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist … This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” Pope Francis wrote in the exhortation, published Feb. 12.

Pope Francis said that Querida Amazonia provides his “own response” to the discussions that took place at the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region October 6-27.

In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis warns against an outlook that restricts “our understanding of the Church to her functional structures.” The pope also rejects a narrow vision of “conceptions of power in the Church” that “clericalize women.”

“Efforts need to be made to configure ministry in such a way that it is at the service of a more frequent celebration of the Eucharist, even in the remotest and most isolated communities … There is also a need for ministers who can understand Amazonian sensibilities and cultures from within,” Pope Francis wrote.

“The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world. This is why it is important to determine what is most specific to a priest, what cannot be delegated. The answer lies in the sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures him to Christ the priest. The first conclusion, then, is that the exclusive character received in Holy Orders qualifies the priest alone to preside at the Eucharist,” Francis said.

The pope called for revision to “the structure and content of both initial and ongoing priestly formation” to be more pastoral and in dialogue with Amazonian cultures. Francis said that “the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority” is required in the region, calling for more permanent deacons and women religious to address the Amazon’s challenges.

Following the controversy sparked by the presence of indigenous statues at Vatican events during the Amazon synod in October and the subsequent apology by Pope Francis for “Pachamama” being thrown in the Tiber River, Pope Francis uses the post-synodal apostolic exhortation to appeal for unity and sensitivity to the over 110 distinct indigenous cultures in the Amazon.

“Let us not be quick to describe as superstition or paganism certain religious practices that arise spontaneously from the life of peoples,” Pope Francis wrote.

“It is possible to take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry. A myth charged with spiritual meaning can be used to advantage and not always considered a pagan error. Some religious festivals have a sacred meaning and are occasions for gathering and fraternity, albeit in need of a gradual process of purification or maturation,” he explained.

“The greatest danger would be to prevent them from encountering Christ by presenting him as an enemy of joy or as someone indifferent to human questions and difficulties,” he added.

In a section entitled, “Expanding horizons beyond conflicts,” Pope Francis lays forth his call for a transcendence of conflict.

“It often happens that in particular places pastoral workers envisage very different solutions to the problems they face, and consequently propose apparently opposed forms of ecclesial organization,” Pope Francis said.

“When this occurs, it is probably that the real response to the challenges of evangelization lies in transcending the two approaches and finding other, better ways, perhaps not yet even imagined.  Conflict is overcome at a higher level, where each group can join the other in a new reality, while remaining faithful to itself,” he added.

Pope Francis presented his four dreams — social, cultural, ecological, and ecclesial — for the “Beloved Amazon” region with indigenous poetry interspersed throughout the apostolic exhortation.

“Poets, contemplatives, and prophets help free us from the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that destroys nature and robs us of a truly dignified existence,” the pope wrote.

The pope also made a point that this apostolic exhortation is addressed “to the whole world,” not just to the Amazonian region.

“The equilibrium of our planet … depends on the health of the Amazon region,” he said. “It serves as a great filter of carbon dioxide, which helps avoid the warming of the earth.”

Francis’ ecological dream for the region encompasses an integral need to protect the human dignity of people living in the region.

“We do not need an environmentalism that is concerned for the biome but ignores the Amazonian peoples,” he wrote. “My predecessor Benedict XVI condemned ‘the devastation of the environment and the Amazon basin, and the threats against the human dignity of the peoples living in that region.’”

“We cannot allow globalization to become a new version of colonialism,” Pope Francis said after apologizing for historic “crimes committed against native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

Colonization has not ended, Pope Francis said, it has been “changed, disguised and concealed, while losing none of its contempt for the life of the poor and the fragility of the environment.”

Pope Francis signed the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on February 2 in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome.

“The pastoral presence of the Church in the Amazon region is uneven, due in part to the vast expanse of the territory, its many remote places, its broad cultural diversity, its grave social problems, and the preference of some peoples to live in isolation. We cannot remain unconcerned; a specific and courageous response is required of the Church,” Pope Francis said.

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  1. L O L
    All these weeks of articles about the pope’s gay mafia agenda to destroy the priesthood with gay pagan priests, and this is what you are forced to publish. What was the point of those weeks of click-bait and anger-mongering, CWR?

    Once again, another synod comes following months of hand-wringing on this site that the Catholic Church is about to be turned into a Unitarian love-in, only for -literally nothing- to come of it. The editors should do some serious soul-searching as to what effect their schismatic articles have on the faithful who consume them.

    • Joe K, amen brother, you have echoed what I have observed with CWR. They bash the Holy Father instead of at least waiting for the document to come out. As a Benedictine Oblate, I would prefer to be obedient and support the Holy Father than condemn him, Christ’s vicar on earth, as those who condemn harshly will be judged and condemned as such. How can one love the Holy Father and learn from him, if all one does is presume to know his actions and outcomes.

    • Joe, perhaps the public airing of those concerns were of use to Pope Francis in making his final document. On their face, those items previously written about here were of grave concern & would have probably caused a schism had they been fully supported by Pope Francis. Truth be told always, I’m more concerned about those who were not concerned. Those (especially in the Church hierarchy etc.) who promoted & supported those items. God bless.

      • To be clear, my post above was in no way suggesting that CWR would have caused a schism by their reporting. I was was referring to the “items/topics reported on themselves”, had they been supported by Pope Francis may very well themselves caused a schism within the Church.

      • Pen H,
        A decision to ordain married men would have caused considerable consternation, but it would not have caused a schism.

        Catholics are not Protestants: Unity and membership in the Mystical Body of Christ (proper) is vital and not an option.

        • I think you are underestimating situation in the Church. I’m pretty sure that celibate has many enemies and if it will be relaxed some day, the Church breaks up like Anglicans.

          By the way, your note about Mystical Body of Christ holds for people who believe in God, which is only subset of the Church. Lot of Catholics are not interested in such things.

    • Dear brother, Joe K, even though I have been making comments and defending the True Catholic Faith right there in some hyper-aggressive, hyper-compromising, hyper-fanatical forums (and others not so much so) for more than 15 years, I have found CWR to be one of the most trustworthy, balanced, faithful and reliable anywhere. Yes, they have to invite individuals with articles that may wobble in one direction or another but that’s how “iron sharpens iron”, (Proverbs 27:17) and that’s also how we grow in the Truth, as a vacuum-sealed, depleted-uranium-armored, shrink-wrapped Church does not grow.

      CWR has been absolutely and very Catholically truthful, responsible and wise to report as they did and continue to do about the scandals and corruption of the Church, especially at the highest levels. It takes Jesus-Sized Guts and Grace to face the Church powerful ones with the Truth, like Jesus did in His earthly time, instead of blindly bowing and groveling before them and being pathetically naïve about every single word they say. That last thing would be child-ISH not child-LIKE (Matthew 18:3).

      That leads me to Pope Francis’ “Querida Amazonia” Apostolic Exhortation summarized in the article above, which sounds ON THE SURFACE, like a great and marvelous thing. Should we all, like deluded children, jump up and down and conclude that he has SUDDENLY and “totally reformed” himself from the political machinations, weaponized ambiguity and serial compromise that have defined his Papacy for years, and which is directly implied in your comment? I get a sort of “spiritual beating” every time I pray for him, but I still DO pray for Pope Francis daily as part of my Catholic daily duties.

      I also pray with all my heart that this is not just another sharp twist-and-turn between Truth and Deception in the now well documented “Bergoglio Tango”. I’ll now include prayers for him and for the RIGHT evolution of this document, which still gives a big, subtle kiss to Pachamamizing the Church and includes another kiss to the socialist mantra that we still have old-style “colonialism” to be fought against and which is just a cunning DISTRACTION.

      The REAL COLONIALISM that we actually have and MUST fight against is Communist Atheistic Colonialism, where “safe zones” everywhere are nothing but real, invading, sabotaging colonies where socialism, communism, radical Islam, Anti-Christian, Anti-America indoctrination, etc. are deemed untouchable and then become spreadable like a major plague, making Ebola look like the common cold. That’s colonialism of the worst kind, compromising our eternal destiny! Kudos and heartfelt prayers to the integrity and bravery of CWR, standing straight before the, so far, Big Colonizer of Compromise and his clones at the Vatican and everywhere else!! Let’s all pray for Pope Francis’ and all of us for Authentic Consistent Daily Conversion to Jesus-Truth!!

      • Phil – I appreciate your thoughtful, charitable, and reality-based observations. How long may we rest before the weaponized ambiguity (historically demonstrated by this papacy) rears its circuitous head? I submit the time will most likely be short.

    • LOL, Joe K, LOL, do you find it LOL absolutely LOL necessary to LOL start every single LOL message with LOL?

      I’ve yet to see a “schismatic article” on CWR.

    • Poor Joe. LOL. Naiveté seems to be your trade mark, as you have no discernment to ‘read between the lines’ as to what Pope Francis has been up to for about 7 years. You would be wise to allow Fr Morello, Phil Alcoceli, and others posting on this article to help you figure the end game out. LOL. Now then, as you are a defender of Pope Francis, take the next flight to Rome and convince the pope that “GOD DID NOT WILL ALL RELIGIONS” if you truly are concerned about the salvation of souls, the Supreme Law of the Church. LOL.

      • Some will read between the lines till their dying day and forget to read what’s on the lines first. Who’d want that type of life? Par the course for clickbait addicts, ho ho.

    • This article is not true. Rome is saying the final synod document is referred to in the pope’s document as being part of his final document. A back door was placed within the document. While every news agency is putting out that the pope said no to married priests, etc… that may not be the case. And as is now the pattern, confusion again. Just like the infamous footnote in Amoris L. now we have the reference to the final synodal document being part of this document. On sticky moral issues and church teachings Francis will never give you a clear answer. His no in not always no, and his yes is not always yes.

    • Given Francis’ track record of speaking out of both sides of his mouth at different times on many occasions, those commenting that he has established his “orthodoxy” and those who doubted him owe him an apology might want to consider the comments of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of the Pope’s C6 Council of Cardinals who advises Francis, who recognizes that the Pope’s post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia actually leaves “all doors open.”
      In an interview in the National Catholic Reporter, the cardinal from South Asia stresses that the Pope was under many “pressures” and that there are “people who do not want any change,” while at the same time others “want overnight changes.” “He’s got to carry everybody with him,” Gracias explains, since the Pope seeks “synodality.” In order to take everybody along, the cardinal adds, “we go slower than we would like to go because of that.”
      Commenting on Querida Amazonia, Gracias calls it “VERY CLEVER” that the Pope is “endorsing the final document,” referring to the Synod’s document that recommended married priests.
      “Therefore the final document remains a valid reference point,” he explains. With regard to the question of the married priests, that means for the prelate that “it’s open. He’s not excluded any part of the final document – he’s not excluded any part of it,” he states.
      Francis has regularly feinted orthodoxy to appease critics as well as those refusing to listen to legitimate criticisms of his pontificate prior to his attempts to undermine orthodoxy. Those making comments here insulting CWR demanding apologies for having raised legitimate questions about what was a sham synodal process, where, among other outrages, all the “holy” prelates never even uttered a word of protest of children buried alive in the Amazon while getting all weepy over pagan idols appropriately removed from a Church, owe CWR apologies.

  2. CWR you have done nothing wrong. You keep us informed of events and have the courage to suggest that this or that result may precipitate. Better to think ahead than react after the fact. Your articles are not schismatic. People and events are schismatic and your reporting and the thoughtful and informed analysis is appreciated. Keep up the good work.

  3. It is possible that Pope Francis’ intentions to say more were cut short by the book published under the names of Benedict and Sarah.

    • These two texts, Querida Amazonia and Des profondeurs de nos coeurs, has been written in parallel without mutual influences. And they deal with different topics most of the time.

      But yes, we live in strange times.

  4. Joe K. ,
    I don’t consider this to be a schismatic site. If it was I wouldn’t give it my attention or online traffic-for whatever my traffic’s worth.
    I can think of a couple other sites that could be described as semi-schismatic, click bait, but CWR isn’t one.
    Troubles & challenges will always be facing the Church & you don’t have to be schismatic or paranoid to air your concerns about it. I’d rather see concern than complacency.

  5. The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world. This is why it is important to determine what is most specific to a priest, what cannot be delegated (Pope Francis). That’s followed with assurance that only the ordained priest is to offer the Holy Eucharist. Translation of the ordained priest to “what cannot be delegated” leaves the issue of ordination of viri probati open. Colonization of Amazonia must reference the Church he represents. Otherwise he references the Brazilian Govt the presence of Govt endorsed development efforts that is in line with his preferential salvation of the planet in deference to saving Man. Clarion call for priest volunteers for the region seems peripheral to ecology if this Amazonia experiment were simply initiated to encourage priest volunteers. As preposterous as it may seem one might say Pachamama would not be pleased. After all she was shown great attentiveness even fealty at the Vatican itself. Does ecologic salvation of the planet seen in all this effort of structural change appointments and other exhortations unaligned? It’s similar to watching the Matrix in real time. Except our intellect God’s indispensable gift to Man tells us what appears reality is deception.

  6. All I can say is it is amazing that this dilemma is beyond a pragmatic argument. Churches, monasteries, schools are closing before our eyes. The real eyeopener is the duplicity of the hierarchy when a married clergyman convert to Catholicism as a married man is welcomed and ordained while his wife and children are in the front row. Convoluted thinking.

    • The fact that you fail to comprehend the 1980 Pastoral Provision or that there are 23 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches sui juris which ordain, as the norm, married men is quite obvious, morgan. Nothing convoluted about that.

  7. The leopard does not change his spots.
    Why has he allowed his name to be put on a document of this character? Given his track record we would be fools not to recognize this to be another Bergoglian tactical calculation or that it was simply the regretfully required product given the superior intellect and virtue exhibited in “From the Depths of Our Hearts” by Benedict/Sarah?
    Why his hysteria over Benedict and Cardinal Sarah’s joint reflection?
    Why his banishment of Archbishop Gänswein from the Papal household?
    The Bergoglians got caught virally over a protracted period time — the Amazonian debacle was bad press and the bad press was touching on multiple hot buttons and it was undenibably “Catholic” in its critique. Undermining the theological understanding of the Holy Priesthood would have made him and his agenda likely to be called out very boldly for who he is and what it is.
    When the protracted German synod is cited for exactly what it is by a papal rebuke perhaps then we can have some hope that there is some remnant of sanity surviving the Bergoglian train wreck.
    Have we been spared? For the moment, yes. The next knife in the back but a reach away.

  8. The Holy Father , likely having been hand picked and prepared early on by Bl.Mother , with that history of his lung infection, needing surgery and removal of part of same on one side , to thus be united more , with The Lord on The Cross, struggling for the very breath …and like the Fatima children and saints who were called up early , to intercede for a world getting infected with the air of impurities .
    His origin in Italy , thus possibly carrying an extra share of an aching sense of responsibility ,as a Jesuit too , for the missed occasions and negligences of the past ,leaving vast lands and nations that are primitive in faith ..and a Spirit inspired devotion ,to Our Lady , Undoer of Knots , with its connections to Germany .

    The economic issues of native Argentina , as an icon of the abuse of power at various levels , adding to the compassion for the oppressed and displaced persons world over ..
    Hope the secular powers who are given the role like that of Joseph of O.T . to manage and protect the resources would hear his call , like that of the Father of the prodigal , to echo into the jungles and darkness in the depth of own hearts too , to take in The Breath of The Spirit , for His vast yet gentle life giving power to bring order and renewal all around .

    • There is also likely the profound TOB lesson he learned at a true heart level , from that occasion of the removal of part of the lung , how the adjoining parts expand and try to take up that space ..and the person thus able to function well , as long as it was not a major portion..
      The Holy Father’s approach thus towards those who have made mistakes – not to throw away the person but to see what need to be done , to heal the sick ..
      an area that takes great wisdom and prudence ..
      Tomorrow , along with Feast of St.Valentine is also Feast of the Sts Cyril and Methodious who brought The Gospel to lands related to Russia ; in Bl.Mother’s call to consecrate that wounded land , a call for deeper unity with The Church .
      Like every marriage willed by God can thank Him , for the many occasions when hearts have beat , in His will, in spite of emotions that could instead call for their dominance , thank God that the issues around the ‘beloved Amazon ‘ too , would be received as an occasion to rise up in the strength of the God given will , to help bring His Kingdom .

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