VATICAN CITY, February 15 ------ Pope Francis on Wednesday dismissed a proposal to allow some married men to be ordained in remote areas, reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church’s centuries-old commitment to celibacy among priests. The decision, one of the most significant of his papacy, appeared a victory for conservative senior clergy, who had feared a slippery slope towards a married priesthood throughout the Church if the recommendation was approved. It was put forward by Latin American bishops as a means of easing an acute shortage of priests in the Amazon region, and passed by 128 votes to 41 at a contentious Vatican assembly, or synod, of Roman Catholic bishops.
Three months after that vote, Francis delivered his response, ignoring the proposal altogether in an Apostolic Exhortation, a mechanism used to instruct and encourage the Catholic faithful but not to define Church doctrine. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican’s former chief doctrinal official and a leading conservative critic of the pope, called it “a document of reconciliation”. He and others had branded as heretical synod documents that included the proposal, which sought to allow older married deacons who are proven leaders of remote Catholic communities and have stable families to be ordained as priests.