by Mary Margaret Olohan
Pope Francis rejected a proposal Wednesday that would have allowed priests in remote areas to be married.
Progressive bishops had urged the pope to change Catholic Church teaching to allow married men to become priests following an October meeting of bishops, the New York Times reports.
Francis, while rejecting the proposal, said in a Wednesday letter that “a specific and courageous response is required of the Church” and that the Church needs to increase access to the sacraments in remote areas. The letter did not directly refer to the bishops’ proposal.
Conservative bishops and laity had feared that allowing married priests and breaking with Catholic teaching and tradition would negatively impact the stability of further Catholic doctrine, the Times reports.
Pope Francis’ letter “demonstrates a thought that supersedes the dialectical diatribes which ended up representing the Synod as a referendum on the possibility of ordaining married men,” Vatican spokesman Andrea Tornielli said in a statement, according to the Times. Tornielli added that the pope decided against “changes or further possibilities of exceptions.”
As an alternative to married priests in remote regions of the world, such as the Amazon, the pope encouraged the lay people of the Catholic Church to foster culturally sensitive vocations to the priesthood. He encouraged more priests to go to these remote areas, but Francis said that it’s “a very narrow aim” to only encourage more priests.
“The growth of a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” the pope wrote.
“It is not simply a question of facilitating a greater presence of ordained ministers who can celebrate the Eucharist,” Francis added.
He also said that every effort should be made to bring the Eucharist to those in remote places.
“This urgent need leads me to urge 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,” Francis wrote, according to Fox News.
Francis’ rejection of the bishops’ proposal comes after retired 92-year-old Pope Benedict XVI co-authored an “unprecedented” book with Cardinal Robert Sarah affirming priestly celibacy called “From the Depths of Our Hearts.”
Both Benedict and Sarah remind readers of the importance of priestly celibacy in “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” and Sarah calls on Francis not to concede on this matter. The book carries significance within the Catholic Church as this is the first time in the past two millennia a retired pope has weighed in on a matter his predecessor is considering: priestly celibacy.
The Vatican did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.