The Vatican will present Pope Francis’ much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Amazon Synod during a press conference on Feb. 12, the Holy See announced Friday.
The document will be titled Querida Amazonia (“Dear Amazonia”) and will embody the pope’s reflections on the insights and recommendations that came out of the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, which was held in Rome last October.
To minister to remote rural communities in the Amazon River Basin, the bishops and delegates who attended the three-week synod presented some controversial proposals to Pope Francis, most notably ordaining respected married men, who are now permanent deacons, as priests and further studying the possibility of ordaining women as deacons.
The Holy See Press Office’s announcement on Friday did not provide any hints as to what the pope has decided on those recommendations, although the Italian Vatican journalist Roberto de Mattei reported last week that he had obtained a leaked excerpt of the exhortation where the pope was said to approve of ordaining the viri probati (“esteemed men of virtue”) to the priesthood.
Mattei said the draft reflected the language of the synod’s final document, where synod members proposed “that criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region.”
Synod members further asked Pope Francis to revise Pope St. Paul VI’s 1972 document on ministries, Ministeria Quaedam (“Some Ministries”), as to allow women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes, among other ministries.
“In the new contexts of evangelization and pastoral ministry in the Amazon, where the majority of Catholic communities are led by women, we ask that an instituted ministry of ‘women community leadership’ be created and recognized as part of meeting the changing demands of evangelization and care for communities,” the synod members said in their document.
Held Oct. 6-27 in Rome, the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region was convened to revitalize the Church’s evangelization in the Amazon River Basin, which encompasses nine countries in South America. In those three weeks, synod members discussed several issues that are impacting the faithful in that territory, including environmental exploitation by powerful business interests and the systematic oppression of indigenous communities.
Synod members also reflected on how best to inculturate the Catholic faith to respect the traditions, culture, and heritage of Amazonian people. In their final document, synod members wrote that the evangelization they proposed for the Amazon is “the inculturated proclamation that generates intercultural processes, processes that promote the life of the Church with an Amazonian face and identity.”
Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and Jesuit Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Department for Integral Human Development Service, will speak during the Vatican’s Feb. 12 press conference. Cardinal Czerny served as a special secretary for the synod.
Jesuit P. Adelson Araújo dos Santos, a theologian and professor of spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University, will also speak at the press conference, as will Sister Augusta de Oliveira, SMR, vicar general of the Servant Sisters of Maria Riparatrici, and Carlos Nobre, a Nobel Prize-winning and member of the Environmental Sciences Commission of the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development.
A video contribution from Archbishop David Martínez de Aguirre Guinea, OP, the bishop of the Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, will be presented during the press conference. Archbishop Martinez served as a special secretary for the synod.
Brian Fraga is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.