Nov 26, 2013 / 06:02 am
Pope Francis reaffirmed Catholic teaching on male priesthood in his first apostolic exhortation, while calling for a broader application of the “feminine genius” in Church life.
“The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,” he said, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”
The Pope’s words came in his new document, “The Joy of the Gospel,” released Nov. 26. Also known as “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation follows the 2012 bishops’ synod on the new evangelization, which was held as part of the Year of Faith.
“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.”
However, this equal dignity cannot be equated with “sacramental power,” he said, quoting Bl. John Paul II’s words that priesthood falls “in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.”
“The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all,” Pope Francis reflected. “The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.”
Although the function of the priesthood is considered “hierarchical,” it is ordered not towards domination but towards serving the members of the Church, he explained, observing that the authority of the priesthood is rooted in service and has its origin in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Still, the role of women in the Church is important, the Pope said in his exhortation, noting that “a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.”
“The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess,” the Holy Father said, pointing as an example to the “special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” …