At a Sunday Mass in St.
Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis opened an assembly of bishops - mostly from the Amazon - to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic Church in that region.
… including the possibility of introducing married priests.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) POPE FRANCIS, SAYING: (BEGINS WITH WIDE OF MASS IN PROGRESS) "If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that 'this is the way things have always been done', then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.” One of the most contentious topics of the three-week synod, is whether to allow older married "proven men" with families and a strong standing in local communities to be ordained as priests in the Amazon.
It’s a possible solution to an acute clerical shortage.
As it stands now - at least 85% of villages in the Amazon cannot celebrate Mass every week due because there aren't enough priests.
But conservative opponents fear that permitting married priests in one part of the world might make it harder to prevent it from spreading to other areas.
The synod will also discuss environmental protection - at a time when fires in Brazil are devastating the Amazon rainforest.
On Sunday - the Pope linked the fires blazing in the rainforest to the destructive legacy of colonialism, and said indigenous cultures had to be respected.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) POPE FRANCIS, SAYING: "...May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism.
The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazon, is not the fire of the Gospel.
The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity.
It is fed by sharing, not by profits..." When the three-week synod comes to a close - participants will vote on a final document and the pope will decide which recommendations to integrate into his future rulings.
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