On Wednesday, Pope Francis published his post-synodal apostolic exhortation in response to the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, entitled Querida Amazonia meaning “Beloved Amazon.”
Given the issue of ordaining married men, viri probati, was a point of considerable discussion at the synod and a draft of the exhortation called for it, some were expecting the final document from Pope Francis would address a married priesthood.
However, Querida Amazonia does not speak to ordaining married men, exceptions to priestly celibacy, or the possibility of a female diaconate. Pope Francis did not quote from any recommendations made in the synod’s final document, saying he “would encourage everyone to read it in full.”
“Priests are necessary, but this does not mean that permanent deacons (of whom there should be many more in the Amazon region), religious women and lay persons cannot regularly assume important responsibilities for the growth of communities.”
Instead, Pope Francis said “in the specific circumstances of the Amazon region, particularly in its forests and more remote places, a way must be found to ensure” priestly ministry.
“Efforts need to be made to configure ministry in such a way that it is at the service of a more frequent celebration of the Eucharist, even in the remotest and most isolated communities. This formation must be preeminently pastoral and favour the development of priestly mercy.”
To fulfill the need for priestly ministry in these areas lacking, Pope Francis urged “all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to 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.
Pope Francis calls for the inclusion of women in new forms of service in the Church, but said letting women take Holy Orders “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.”
“Women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother. As a result, we do not limit ourselves to a functional approach, but enter instead into the inmost structure of the Church.”
Pope Francis devotes nearly half of Querida Amazonia outlining his “Ecclesial Dream” for the Amazon, stressing that the most important need for the Church in the Amazon is “the celebration of the Eucharist because it ‘makes the Church.'”
“No Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist. If we are truly convinced that this is the case, then every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.”
Pope Francis ended his exhortation with a prayer to Mary:
“Mother of life,
in your maternal womb Jesus took flesh,
the Lord of all that exists.
Risen, he transfigured you by his light
and made you the Queen of all creation.
For that reason, we ask you, Mary, to reign
in the beating heart of Amazonia.”
After its publication, Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni said the “apostolic exhortation is magisterium, the final document [of the Amazon synod] is not. Anything in the final document should be read in the lens of the apostolic exhortation, including any application.”
Read Querida Amazonia here in full on the Vatican’s website.