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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020

Pope Francis hosting conference which will debate whether married men could be priests

The move is part of discussions to address a shortage of priests in the Amazon region.

Pope Francis leaves after celebrating an opening Mass for the Amazon synod, in St. Peter's Basilica
Pope Francis leaves after celebrating an opening Mass for the Amazon synod, in St. Peter's Basilica
Image: Andrew Medichini

POPE FRANCIS IS meeting with Catholic bishops today for the start of a three-week meeting which will debate a number of issues including whether married elders could be ordained priests. 

Francis celebrated an opening Mass in St Peter’s Basilica this morning with global attention newly focused on the wildfires that are devouring the Amazon rainforest, which scientists say is a crucial bulwark against global warming.

On hand for the service were indigenous people, some with their faces painted and wearing feathered headdresses, as well as more than 180 cardinals, bishops and priests, who donned green vestments like the Pope.

The special Amazon synod is set to be one of the most controversial of Francis’s papacy. 

Among the most contentious proposals on the agenda is whether married elders could be ordained priests to address the chronic priest shortages in the region.

Currently indigenous Catholics in remote parts of the Amazon can go months without seeing a priest or having a proper Mass.

Another proposal calls for the Catholic Church to identify new “official ministries” for women, though organisers have made it clear that priestly ordination is off the table.

Francis’s conservative critics, including a handful of cardinals, have called the proposals “heretical” and an invitation to a “pagan” religion that idolises nature rather than God.

They have mounted an opposition campaign, issuing petitions and holding conferences to raise their voices.

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