One of the few indigenous priests participating in this month’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon has weighed in on the issue of celibacy, saying it is a virtue everyone can live. Source: Crux.
Fr Justino Sarmento Rezende was asked during a press conference yesterday his thoughts on comments made by Brazilian Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler that implied the priest shortage in the Amazon is in part because indigenous people have difficulty understanding celibacy. He shot down the notion, saying celibacy is “a gift from God” that anyone can live, albeit with effort.
“People from every culture in the world can live in celibacy when, freely and not because they have been forced, a person says, ‘I want to adopt this lifestyle,’” said Fr Sarmento Rezende, an expert in indigenous spirituality and pastoral inculturation who comes from Brazil.
Celibacy, he said, “is not something that was born with the human person,” but is a practice that was established throughout the history of the Church. Because of this, he said, no one is naturally ready to live celibacy, which is a challenge not just for indigenous, but “every normal person can have this difficulty”.
“So it’s very important to live celibacy by making an effort, with help and by living in the most balanced possible way,” he said, adding that if one day he decided that celibacy was no longer something he could live with, “then I would have to leave because it was something I decided.”
Yet Fr Sarmento Rezende refrained from commenting on the much-debated proposal to ordain viri probati, or mature married men, as a solution to the regional priest shortage – a suggestion that Bishop Kräutler said has the backing of some “two thirds” of synod participants.
Rather than going into details, Fr Sarmento Rezende simply said that at this juncture of the synod, “different ministries are something we are considering,” but he did not offer an opinion.