ROME — While much attention has been paid over the past days and weeks to the ins and outs of the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, that doesn’t mean the rest of the Church simply went on “pause” while the Americans did their thing.
In fact, the past week has been a busy period all over the Catholic map. Here’s a small sampling from the Church south of the border, offering a reminder that the word “Catholic” does indeed mean “universal.”
The upcoming Synod on the Amazon
On Monday, after this week’s Angelus went to print, the Vatican released the working document for an upcoming summit of bishops from the Amazon region, which will take place in Rome this October, bringing together prelates from countries that make up a vast region considered one of the world’s two lungs.
Speaking about the synod, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the general relator (more or less, chairman), said that if the bishops request it, Pope Francis would be open to ordaining “viri probati,” married men of proven virtue, as priests.
“The shortage of priests and, therefore, the absence of the Eucharist in the Amazonian communities, is a great limitation,” Hummes said last week while he was in Francis’ native Argentina. “In fact, for its inhabitants the Eucharist is something rare, not part of their daily life.”
However, he said, for the Catholic Church the Eucharist is “fundamental and necessary” to develop a community faithful to Jesus Christ.
“The synod will have to deal with this question, [to] put on the table how to open new ways to better serve the faithful,” he said.
Due to a shortage of priests, an estimated 70 percent of the communities in the Amazon region don’t have access to Sunday Mass.
Francis addressed the issue of possibly ordaining married men at length in January, during an in-flight press conference on the way back to Rome from Panama.
“I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy,” Francis said, quoting St. Pope Paul VI, who as the Argentine pontiff noted, was speaking “when times were tougher than now, in 1968-1970.”
“I’m not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy. No,” he said.
Francis did add, however, that he believes theologians should study the possibility of “older married men” being ordained, in “far, faraway places,” such as the Pacific islands, but even then, only to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and anoint the sick.
In Chile, a bishop resigned before being ordained
On June 14, the Archdiocese of Santiago, capital of Chile, announced that Francis has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop-elect Carlos Eugenio Irarrázaval Errázuriz after he made controversial comments on the sexual abuse crisis, women in the Church, and the Jewish community.
“The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Father Carlos Eugenio Irarrázaval Errázuriz as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Santiago,” read a statement released by the local Church.
“The decision was fruit of a dialogue and joint discernment, in which Pope Francis has valued the spirit of faith and humility of the priest, in favor of unity and the good of the pilgrimage Church in Chile,” it continued.
Santiago has been hard-hit by the clerical sexual abuse scandal, with two former archbishops being subpoenaed by local prosecutors after being accused of covering up abuse.
Irarrázaval got into trouble just one day after his appointment in late May, when he said there’s no benefit in continuing to stir the pot — using the local colloquialism “stirring reheated rice is worthless” — when it comes to the abuse scandals in Chile.
This caused uproar among survivors.
He didn’t stop there. The following day, in an interview with CNN Chile, he said that “since there was no woman seated at the table in the Last Supper,” women have no role in the Church. According to Irarrázaval, this was a choice Jesus made, and not “for ideological reasons.”
“Jewish culture is chauvinistic even today,” he’d said a few seconds earlier. “If you see a Jew walking down the street, the woman is 10 steps behind, but Jesus Christ breaks this dynamic; Jesus Christ speaks with women — with the adulterous woman, with the Samaritan woman — Jesus Christ allows for women to care for him. Who did he choose to announce [his] resurrection? Magdalena, a woman.”
The date for his episcopal ordination had never been announced and has now been canceled. Irarrázaval will continue in the priesthood.
The second auxiliary bishop whom Francis had appointed to Santiago, Father Alberto Lorenzelli, an Argentinian raised in Italy who’s been in Chile for the past five years, will be ordained a bishop later this month.
After Irarrázaval’s resignation was announced, many in Chile began recirculating a request for the resignation of the papal representative in the country, Italian Archbishop Ivo Scalpolo.
As nuncio, he’s not only responsible for having suggested the priest as a bishop, but also of suggesting the transfer of Bishop Juan Barros from the military chaplaincy to the southern Diocese of Osorno in 2015.
That transfer is what initially ignited uproar, fueled by survivors who accused Barros of covering up for his mentor. Francis defended him publicly until early 2018, but since then he’s accepted the resignations of nine of the country’s 40 bishops, 10 of whom have been subpoenaed by civil authorities for either abuse or cover-up.
Inés San Martín is an Argentinian journalist and Rome bureau chief for Crux. She is a frequent contributor to the print edition of Angelus and, through an exclusive content-sharing arrangement with Crux, provides news and analysis to Angelus News.
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