5 things to know about 'Querida Amazonia'

Via Crucis Amazonia Anthony Johnson ACI 19102019 Via Amazonian Crucis in the Vatican. Photo: Anthony Johnson/CNA

Pope Francis promulgated on Wednesday a new apostolic exhortation, or letter of encouragement, about the Church in the Amazon region. The document is a follow-up to a synod, or meeting, of bishops convened last year to discuss the Church in the region.

Here are five things to know about Querida Amazonia:

The Eucharist is the heart of the document.

Pope Francis spends much of the document talking about the needs of the Church in the Amazon region, where at least 20 million people live, across 8 countries. But the most important need of the Church, Pope Francis says, "is the celebration of the Eucharist because it 'makes the Church.'

Quoting from the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis says that "no Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist."

Because the Eucharist is at the center of the Church, Pope Francis encourages the promotion of vocations, missionary priests in the Amazon, along with teaching and formation about what the Eucharist is, and why it matters so much.

The document does not permit married priests. 

The 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon recommended to Pope Francis that diocesan bishops in the Amazon region should be permitted to ordain as priests married and mature permanent deacons to serve in communities without a priest. The idea gained traction, and became the source of debate, in many corners of the Church.

The pope did not accept that recommendation, and, Vatican officials said Wednesday, has no plans to accept it.

Seriously, the document is not about married priests, or priestly celibacy. 

Querida Amazonia discusses evangelization, cultural, missionary life, the environment and economic concerns, and the need for priests to collaborate with lay people, and especially women, to proclaim the Gospel and witness to Christ. It also discusses the importance of the priesthood in the life of the Church.

But for all the debate in recent months among some people about married priests, Pope Francis never even mentions the idea in his document. The pope has said for years that he thinks priestly celibacy is an important value for the Church, but did not raise the question at all in Querida Amazonia.

The pope encourages Catholics to read the recommendations of the 2019 Synod of Bishops.

At the conclusion of the 2019 Synod of Bishops, participants approved a document making recommendations to the pope about the Church's ministry in the Amazon, including the possibility of ordaining married men as priests.

In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis recommended that Catholics read that document. He did not endorse all its proposals, or any of them specifically, nor did he approve them with the magisterial authority of his office. He commended them for reading, study, and discussion.

The document ends with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Pope Francis prays:

Mother of life,
in your maternal womb Jesus took flesh,
the Lord of all that exists.
Risen, he transfigured you by his light
and made you the Queen of all creation.
For that reason, we ask you, Mary, to reign
in the beating heart of Amazonia.

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