Vatican synod proposes ordination of married men as priests in Amazon region

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops from the Amazon on Saturday proposed that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained priests, which could lead to a landmark change in the Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.

The proposal, made in a final document of a three-week assembly, known as a synod, passed by a vote of 128 in favor and 41 against. Pope Francis will consider it, along with many others on issues including the environment and the role of women, in a future document of his own.

One of the most contentious items in the 120-paragraph final document from the synod, the proposal calls for married men who are already deacons in the Church and are proven leaders in their communities to be ordained as priests.

It said the ordination to the priesthood would have to be preceded by an “adequate formation”. This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.

At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend Mass every week and some cannot do so for years.

Conservatives oppose the change, fearing it would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the 1.3 billion member Church. The document said that some bishops in the synod thought the issue of a married priesthood should be discussed on a universal basis.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson