Mexican bishop says he will not support “autonomous church”

.- In a statement sent to Catholic News Agency, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas and his Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Diaz responded to the controversy surrounding a letter from the Holy See which ordered a suspension of ordinations to the permanent deaconate in the Mexican diocese.

“Although there were some at the Vatican who supported our petition, the decision to suspend these ordinations prevailed,” the statement said.  “Let it be clear, however, that this is not a definitive and permanent suspension, but a temporary one, and those who are already permanent deacons can continue exercising their ministry without any restrictions.”

“First of all,” the bishops continued, “we respect this decision with serene faith and active hope, although with heartfelt sorrow.  We will not ordain any more permanent deacons until this door is opened again.  We could carry out new ordinations and they would be valid; but they would be illicit and we would be breaking ecclesial communion, thus isolating ourselves and making ourselves into an ‘autonomous Church,’ which no one wants.”

They went on to express their concern that “our efforts to become an ‘autoctonous Church’ have been called ‘ideological.’  Although we acknowledge the limitations and deficiencies, we believe that the efforts to implement the idea of an autoctonous Church are being carried out in conformity with the teachings of the Council.”

“We would be falling into an ‘ideology’,” they argued, “into ‘ideological isolation,’ if our project of an autoctonous Church were to be confused with that of an autonomous Church. We are not, nor do we have the intention of becoming, an autonomous Church.”

The bishops also said the ordinations to the permanent deaconate in their diocese were not meant to encourage hopes for a married priesthood, although they said they have received “many requests” for the idea.  The reaffirmed their commitment to fostering vocations to the celibate priesthood.

Regarding the Vatican request to suspend the formation of more candidates to the permanent deaconate, the bishops said, “We will continue the formation of our catechists, not in view of a possible immediate ordination to the deaconate, but rather in order to strengthen their service in the communities, preparing them to be instituted as lectors and acolytes.”  

“When the Holy Spirit thus disposes and the doors are opened again, some of them will already be ready for ordination,” they said.


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