ROME:Pope Francis has decided against opening up the Roman Catholic priesthood to married men – a move that will please traditionalists but dismay those who argue that easing the celibacy rule would tackle a shortage of clerics.
Instead, an “apostolic exhortation” from the pontiff has focused on environmental damage after bishops from the Amazon highlighted the destruction of the region’s rainforests and exploitation of Indigenous people at a Vatican summit last year.
Beloved Amazon, the papal missive, does not refer to a call from the Amazon bishops to allow the ordination of married men. The issue has become the latest point of friction between conservatives and reformers within the church, with divisions thrown into sharp relief when Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, publicly declared his opposition to any changes to the 1,000-year-old tradition of celibacy in the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Instead, Francis urged bishops to pray for an increase in priestly vocations and suggested more missionaries be sent to remote communities where Catholics can go for long periods without receiving mass.
“This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America … to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” he wrote.
A statement from the Vatican said: “The Amazon challenges us, the Pope writes, to overcome limited perspectives and not to content ourselves with solutions that address only part of the situation.”