Pope Francis on Wednesday rejected a proposal that married men be ordained in the Amazon region to address a shortage of priests.
The recommendation, which Latin American bishops introduced last year, had alarmed conservatives in the deeply polarized 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, who feared it could lead to a change in the age-old commitment to celibacy among priests.
In an Apostolic Exhortation, Francis delivered his response three months after the proposal was made during a contentious assembly of Roman Catholic bishops, or synod, at the Vatican, Reuters reported.
Francis didn’t even refer to the recommendations by Amazonian bishops to consider the ordination of married deacons. Instead, he urged bishops to pray for more priestly vocations and send missionaries to the region.
His dodging of the issue disappointed progressives, who had hoped he would at the very least put it to additional study. And it relieved conservatives who have used the debate about priestly celibacy to increase opposition to the pope, whom some have accused of heresy.
Francis addressed the document, titled “Beloved Amazon,” to all peoples of the world “to help awaken their affection and concern for that land which is also ours and to invite them to value it and acknowledge it as a sacred mystery.”
He said he has four dreams for the Amazon: that the rights of the poor are respected, that their cultural riches are celebrated, that the region’s natural beauty and life are preserved, and that its Christian communities show Amazonian features.