Pope Francis recently released his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Querida Amazonia.” This document follows last October’s synod of bishops for the Pan-Amazon region. At the synod, media attention focused on the question of married priests and women deacons. Many voices inside and outside of the Church anticipated that the pope’s exhortation would rule on these two issues. Yet, the pope does not mention them. Instead, he focuses on social injustice in the Amazon, an appreciation for indigenous cultures, care for the environment and evangelization of the Amazon.
Regarding the shortage of priests in the Amazon Pope Francis states: “[We must] 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.” Here, the pope simply reiterates what has been the perennial missionary call of Christ for priestly shepherds to spread the Gospel. Likewise, the pope does not mention women deacons. Instead, he praises the work of “strong and generous women, who undoubtedly called and prompted by the Holy Spirit, baptized catechized, prayed and acted as missionaries.
For centuries, women have kept the Church alive in those places through their remarkable devotion and deep faith.” The pope cautions against a reductionist approach to the role of women. He writes: “Such a reductionism would lead us to believe that women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders. But that approach would in fact narrow our vision; it would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.”
In his exhortation the pope teaches us to avoid a functionalist approach to Church teaching and discipline. Despite the clamor of some, the problems in the Amazon will not be solved with married priests or women deacons.
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