Requirement for some priests may be waived

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican for the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region.

Pope Francis urged South American bishops gathered at the Vatican on Monday to “speak with courage” as they address a severe priest shortage in remote areas of the region that could result in the church dropping celibacy requirements for some priests.

The three-week Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will also address crucial regional topics ranging from protection of rain forests and local cultures to climate change, migration and clean water.

“We have not come here to invent programs of social development or custody of cultures,” the pope said. “We come to contemplate, to understand, to serve the peoples.”

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the retired archbishop of Sao Paulo who organized the synod, said many rural Amazon communities have so little access to priests that Sunday Mass can’t be held. And while the Eucharist can distributed to worshippers by non-priests, the symbolic wafers must be blessed by a priest.

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