Pope Francis Declines To Allow Married Priests In Amazon Region, Where There's A Severe Shortage

Pope Francis has declined to allow married priests in the Amazon region, a part of the world where there are so few Catholic priests that some faithful will go for months without being able to celebrate Mass with an ordained priest, CNN reports.

On Wednesday, the pontiff released his long-anticipated, four-chapter report about the church's plans for the Amazon region. So severe is the priest shortage in the region that there were rumors afoot that Pope Francis was considering taking the extreme step of allowing married priests. The measure would not have allowed Catholic priests across the board to marry, but would have been specific to that region.

However, the release of the document has put all of that speculation to rest. There will be no married Catholic priests, in the Amazon or anywhere else.

The document, "Querida Amazonia" ("Beloved Amazon"), focuses mostly on cultural and environmental issues and is filled with florid poetry about the pontiff's "dreams" for the region.

"I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor..."
The first three chapters of the document outline his beliefs about the cultural and social issues of the region, in which he calls for "respect" for the land and the people who inhabit it.

The last chapter, which outlines the Pope's beliefs about the role of the Catholic Church in the region, doesn't mention allowing married priests to serve in the region.

With that, the matter of Pope Francis possibly one day opening the door to married priests is now dead, say some Catholics in Europe and the Americas, who were hoping that this small change — allowing married priests in the Amazon — would eventually be a starting point for someday allowing married Catholic priests all across the world.

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 26: Pope Francis is bade farewell as he prepares to board his plane before leaving Japan on the final day of his four day visit on November 26, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Pope Francis has made only the second ever Papal visit to Japan where he visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima before travelling to Tokyo to meet with newly-enthroned Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Abe as well as holding Mass at Tokyo Dome. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Getty Images | Carl Court

An Intense Debate Within The Vatican

The idea of the Vatican making a substantive change to a centuries-old policy, particularly something as visible as whether priests can marry, was not surprisingly met with resistance from conservatives within the Church.

It also put the current Pope at odds with his predecessor.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, for a while there was speculation among Vatican observers that Pope Francis would allow married priests, at least in the Amazon. Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, purportedly co-authored a chapter in a book calling on the church to continue to demand celibacy from priests.

The Future Of The Catholic Church Under Francis

In seemingly closing the door on allowing married priests, albeit in one specific region, some Catholics are beginning to fear that some liberal reforms they've been anticipating from Francis aren't going to come, said Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

"People are starting to adjust their expectations," Faggioli said.