VATICAN CITY — One of the key figures behind the Pan-Amazon Synod’s working document admitted Wednesday that he supports the ordination of women as priests and that he sees this month’s meeting as one possible step towards achieving that goal.
Asked in English by the Register after Wednesday’s synod press briefing if he supported the ordination of women as priests, Austrian-born Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil, said: “I tell you that for me there is no …” and he struggled to find the right word before adding: “Why female[s], women now are able, not are able to be ordained? Why?”
Asked if he would therefore like women to be ordained priests, he replied. “Si [yes], logically.”
When it was put to him whether he sees this synod as a means to achieve that, he again struggled to answer, and a communications official appeared to usher for him to end the interview, yet he replied: “Maybe a step to.”
“Many of the bishops [at the synod] are in favor of women deacons,” he asserted.
Speaking at the press briefing earlier, he said that most of the Amazon communities are “coordinated and directed by women and so we have to think about this.”
“We hear a lot about the role of women, but what are we going to tell her? ‘Yes, you’re very good, but …’ We need concrete solutions, and so I’m thinking of the female diaconate.”
Bishop Kräutler, a missionary who has spent many years in Brazil defending the rights of indigenous peoples and the poor in the region, is widely known to have been the principal author of the synod’s contested working document, or instrumentum laboris.
The Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region continues through Oct. 27.
A member of the synod’s preparatory council in the months leading up to this month’s meeting, and a member of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), Bishop Kräutler is a key figure behind the synod. He was elected Monday a member of the synod’s Commission for Information.
The retired bishop is also a leading proponent of the ordination of married men “of proven virtue” (viri probati) as priests, in order to bring the sacraments, primarily the Eucharist, to remote Amazonian areas where there is a shortage of priests.
Bishop Kräutler told reporters today he estimates “two-thirds” of bishops in the Amazon support the ordination of viri probati.
“There’s no other option,” he said during the press conference a short while earlier. “Indigenous people don’t understand celibacy,” he added, and he recalled many times he would go to a village and that the first thing they asked him was: “Where is your wife?”
“I had to explain I’m not married, and they almost felt sorry for me, saying: ‘Oh poor man.’” He added that a second time that happened, he replied: “She’s far away” and was “thinking of my mother.”
“Indigenous peoples, at least those I’ve met, cannot understand this thing that man is not married,” he said.
Quoting Scripture, Bishop Kräutler said he believes it more important to bring the Eucharist to people than maintain mandatory celibacy.
The issue has been raised many times so far during the synod, but has also received considerable opposition, with some seeing evangelization as the answer rather than promoting a change in the nature of the priesthood.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.