In the first two days of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, participants have flagged a regional priest shortage and the need for a clear ministerial role for women as key issues up for discussion. Source: Crux.
Speaking to journalists during a press briefing at the close of yesterday's morning session, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican’s communications department, said both ordained ministry and the need to find “new paths” for women’s ministry in regional communities has been “underlined a lot” in the speeches thus far.
On these two issues, he said, “everyone says there is a question and a need to find an answer, but the answers aren’t the same.”
Mr Ruffini explained that these topics primarily came up under the heading for the need of greater formation on the part of the laity, since priests are few and cannot provide answers or help to everyone.
The October 6-27 Synod is divided into morning and afternoon sessions. For the first two days, participants are giving four-minute speeches. From today, they will divide into small groups for actual discussion of key topics in the gathering’s working text.
According to Mr Ruffini, the roughly 40 prelates have focused on a few core issues, including environmental degradation due to predatory mining practices and a chronic priest shortage in a region in which some rural indigenous communities see a priest once a year or less.
Many Synod participants stressed the need to move from a “pastoral visit” to a “pastoral presence,” Mr Ruffini said.
Agreeing that priestly celibacy, which has been mandatory for the Roman Catholic Church since the 11th century, is a “great gift of the Holy Spirit,” some Synod participants still suggested the long-debated possibility of ordaining viri probati, or mature married men, to help curb the regional shortage, evaluating the outcome over time to gauge its effectiveness.
However, others, Mr Ruffini said, argued against the proposal, saying it would turn priests into “a simple functionary” for Masses, “and not a pastor of the community.”
Also brought up as a key question was the need to establish a formal ministry for women in the Amazon, since it is women who often play a leading role not only in their indigenous communities, but also the liturgy.
When it came to this issue, participants were also in agreement on the need, but not on how to solve it, Mr Ruffini said, explaining that the women’s diaconate was suggested as a solution, while others resisted the idea.
Lacking a clear solution in the speeches given thus far, Mr Ruffini stressed that “It’s a developing process,” and voiced his belief that clearer solutions will begin to take shape when small group deliberations begin today.