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‘Beloved Amazonia’

There was much consternation in the Western media when Pope Francis recently released his document Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazonia) and did not address the issue of married priests, as many people had expected. The exhortation came on foot of the Amazon Synod held last year in Rome » when bishops from the region recommended, in a majority vote, that mature men be allowed to enter the priesthood and that ordination to the diaconate be open to women.

Dr Gerry O’Hanlon is an Irish Jesuit theologian who has been studying Querida Amazonia. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he acknowledges the disappointment many Catholics felt at the Pope’s failure to take on board the bishop’s recommendations. Listen to the full interview above.

Gerry says a close look at the document reveals, however, that Francis is “kicking for touch” and leaving the issue open for further discussion. Importantly, he notes, in this document the Pope is actually trying to give official standing to women who are already in leadership roles in many Church communities but are not recognised canonically.

He says the Pope is trying to move away from a clerical Church and wants people to discern, as he is doing, how best to proceed in that regard. “We’re in a stage of transition into a synodal model of Church,” says Gerry, and Pope Francis is coming to terms with issues that arise in that process, such as “papal primacy and episcopal collegiality”.

This process of discernment, familiar to many Jesuits, is, according to Gerry, the hallmark of Pope Francis deliberations. He is not afraid of real debate and discussion as bishops and lay people meet in countries around the world. He quotes Francis’ own words from Querida Amazonia: “Let us be fearless, let us not clip the wings of the Holy Spirit”.

The text of Querida Amazonia mainly concerns the social, cultural and ecological rights of the 33 million people in the Amazon region, which covers nine countries. Gerry talks about the Pope’s four dreams for those people, of whom 2.5 million are indigenous.

Pope Francis wants justice and protection for them, for their culture and their ecosystem, in the face of aggressive capitalism which threatens to destroy their lives, their lands, (including the Amazon river and rainforests) and their livelihoods.