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Shortage Of Clergy In Amazon Prompts Urgent Debate On Celibacy Rules, Married Priests

THE VATICAN (CBSNewYork) - Pope Francis and Catholic leaders have been taking part in a nearly month-long meeting in Rome with church bishops and indigenous peoples from central South America.

This weekend, they will vote on whether married men in remote areas of the Amazon should be allowed to be ordained as priests.

Back in the Tri-State Area, the proposal is being met with mixed reactions, reports CBS2's Kiran Dhillon.

"The question the bishops have to answer is which is more important to the Catholic Church: Having the Eucharist and the sacraments in these places or having a celibate clergy?" said Father Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with Religion News Service.

Mauricio Lopez is with the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, the church group meeting with the pope.

"This is no parliament - we are not taking votes to decide - we are helping him to understand what is happening, to get the inputs that he needs," said Lopez.

A recent CBS News poll says nearly 70% of Catholic Americans say they favor letting Catholic priests marry, with 25% opposed.


The Archdiocese of New York says Catholic priests could be married up until a thousand years ago. In some Catholic branches, there are married members of the clergy.

Still, it says celibacy is key for many Catholics.

"It allows a man to fully devote himself to his calling as a priest," said Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York. "It allows him to give up something we see as good, having a married family to give yourself to God and church."

Some say it's about time.

"I don't think there has to be a reason to have a rule that's applied across the board," said Manhattan resident Alan Schaplowsky. "Sounds like a good idea to me."

"I don't see a downside on that, only an upside," said Kathleen Hymes, also of Manhattan. "There's so many caring men, and the role of celibacy is too stringent."

Others say it could lead to all priests being allowed to get married.

"You decide to do service to God," said Carmen Restituyo, who supports keeping priests celibate.

When a priest has their own family, they can be divided in focus

The recommendation will be voted on this Saturday by a group of church leaders, though the ultimate decision will be made by Pope Francis.

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