On the heels of a bold call by Amazon region bishops for married men to become priests, Pope Francis is urging openness to new ways, and in a possible slap at conservative critics who fear he is weakening the Catholic church's foundations, he cautions faithful against entering the "swampy waters of ideologies." At Mass Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica to conclude a weeks-long Vatican meeting on the special needs of Catholics in that South American region, Francis thanked the bishops for their candor, the AP reports. In follow-up remarks in St. Peter's Square, he didn't cite the vote a day earlier by a majority of the synod's bishops to ordain married men in special circumstances in the region. But Francis said he and others at the synod felt encouraged to "leave comfortable shores."
On Saturday, Francis told bishops he would draw his conclusions about their requests in a document he hoped to write by year's end. His conclusions will be eagerly awaited by faithful who wonder if it will include an opening to lifting a ban on married priests, at least in some circumstances, in a part of the world where evangelical Protestant churches are increasingly winning converts. Allowing married men to be ordained in remote Amazon areas that are facing severe shortages of priests would chip away at the Catholic Church's nearly millennium-old teaching upholding priestly celibacy. Since Francis on numerous occasions has praised celibacy for priests, it was unclear if the Argentine-born pontiff would embrace the bishops' appeal for married men's ordinations.
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