Pope Francis, the Catholic pontiff, has ruled against ordaining married men in the Amazon region as a means of addressing the shortage of Catholic priests.
Catholic bishops backed the measure last year, but the decision needed the Pope’s approval to be implemented.
“The Amazon challenges us, the Pope writes, to overcome limited perspectives and not to content ourselves with solutions that address only part of the situation,” a statement from the Vatican read on Wednesday.
The Pope said there was a need for ministers who can understand Amazonian sensibilities and cultures from within.
He urged bishops to “promote prayer for priestly vocations” and to encourage those who want to become missionaries to “opt for the Amazon region”.
Catholic priests are required to abide by the rule of celibacy upon ordination except in cases where married Anglican ministers have converted.
Celibacy is seen by the church as the devotion of one’s life to God.
In October last year, a synod of 184 bishops met at the Vatican to discuss the future of the Church in the Amazon. It was argued that older, married men should be allowed to become priests.
It is estimated that at least 85 per cent of villages in the Amazon are unable to celebrate Mass every week as a result of a shortage of priests. Some are said to only see a priest once a year.
Pope Francis had previously said he would consider the possibility of viri probati (men of proven faith) carrying out some duties.
However, they would need to be men who are particularly well-respected and would preferably come from the indigenous communities where they intend to work.
But the conservative wing of the Catholic Church – particularly in Europe and North America – has spoken out against the idea, arguing that this could lead to the global abolition of celibacy.
The leading critic of the proposal has been the pope’s predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Last month, it emerged that Benedict had contributed to a book, ‘From the Depths of Our Hearts’, written by Cardinal Robert Sarah, which repeatedly asserts that priests must be celibate.