The recommendation, put forward by Latin American bishops last year, alarmed conservatives in the deeply polarised 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, who feared it could lead to a change in the centuries-old commitment to celibacy among priests.
Francis delivered his response in an Apostolic Exhortation on Wednesday, three months after the proposal passed by 128 votes to 41 at a contentious Vatican assembly, or synod, of Roman Catholic bishops.
Apostolic Exhortations are used to instruct and encourage the Catholic faithful but do not define Church doctrine.
Wednesday’s 32-page document did not even mention the proposal, which was for older married deacons who are proven leaders of remote Catholic communities and have stable families to be ordained as priests.
Conservatives balked, fearing that even a circumscribed change would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the Church.
They branded a pre-synod working document as heretical.
In what some viewed as a strategically timed appeal to Francis not to approve the Amazon proposal, a book published last month by Church conservatives defended the tradition of priestly celibacy.
“From the Depths of Our Hearts” was co-authored by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Former Pope Benedict, though Francis’ predecessor subsequently disassociated himself from the project.
Vatican officials said the pope completed the document on December 27, before the book controversy, and handed it in for translations. They said no changes were made after that.
In the Exhortation, the 82-year-old Argentine pope wrote, new ways must be found to encourage more priests to work in the remote region, and allow expanded roles for lay people and permanent deacons.
Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers. They can preach, teach, baptise and run parishes but not say Mass.
Married men can become deacons.
Want to comment?
Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.
We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.
InDaily has changed the way we receive comments. Go here for an explanation.
We value local independent journalism. We hope you do too.
InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.