Cardinal says synod won't propose married priests, women deacons

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ordaining married men and women deacons will not be options proposed by the Oct. 2-23 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist as ways to solve the problem of priestless parishes, said an African cardinal.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, said the synod has recognized that the shortage of priests is a problem "and the fathers are looking for different solutions to it."

But while the suggestion by some synod members to allow for the ordination of married men of proven virtue has been listened to, it is being shelved for the time being, the cardinal said.

Synod participants from the Eastern churches that have married priests "are advising us a lot on this" question, he said at an Oct. 18 press briefing.

But the prevailing feeling of the majority of the voting members is "let's keep (the idea of married priests) on the shelf awhile," perhaps for further study or consideration, he said.

The overall opinion is "let's exhaust the other possibilities first before we come to this," he added.

In response to a question on whether the ordination of women as deacons was being considered as a solution, Cardinal Turkson said the idea did "not come up on the floor as a solution" and was not even proposed by the women religious in attendance as observers.

He said women already can be eucharistic ministers, so as deacons they would be doing much the same thing as when they lead prayer services and serve as extraordinary ministers of Communion.

But, he said, synod members are worried about "who will preside over Mass," not eucharistic services. Their "huge concern" has been how they can make sure "people do not confuse Mass with eucharistic services," he said.

Synod members "don't want people to think they do not need the eucharistic celebration" of Mass if they have been attending prayer services at which Communion is distributed, he said.

The cardinal also questioned the need for every parish in some countries to have a pastor. He said in some of the countries where there are priest shortages people have cars or other forms of transportation "and a church may be 10-15 minutes away by car."

"Why is it so difficult to drive 10 minutes away when (in Africa) we need sometimes to walk 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) or so to attend Mass?" he asked. "People (drive) cars for ballgames, why can't you (drive) cars for Mass and for Eucharist?"

For now, he said the long-term approach the synod is taking is an appeal for and "promotion of vocations."

The short-term approach is redistributing priests.

"There are places where seminarians abound, and if they can be helped with their formation, I think they'd be able to help those places that have shortages," said the cardinal.

"Naturally the abundance we're talking about is mostly in Third World countries, Kerala (southern India), Africa, other places, so there may be a little bit of difficulty with some of these people serving in places because of cultural differences," he said.

He encouraged bishops to gradually introduce the visiting priests into their places of ministry so they can get used to the different cultures.

He also said it would be a good idea for bishops to establish training programs that included work on "diction, language and accent" so the priest would be able "to administer effectively to the people."

Cardinal Turkson said he has several Ghanaian priests from his archdiocese serving in the United States, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. He said it was their "way of reciprocating" the generosity and love shown by the early missionaries to Africa.

He said there is a cemetery in Cape Coast "where you find the missionaries are 20, 22, 23" years old and "were destroyed by malaria at those tender ages."

"So we think that it is just fair" that "we should share what we have. It's returning a kind gesture," he said.

Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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