Vatican City, Feb 14, 2020 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis this week discussed his new post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia, with United States bishops in Rome for their ad limina visits to the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul.
In a two and half hour-long Feb. 10 meeting with the bishops of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, Francis spoke about his document following October’s Amazon synod, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA.
“He brought up to us that he was going to release it and with that he brought up too the question of celibacy,” Archbishop Aquila said.
Pope Francis was expected to focus in Querida Amazonia on a proposal to ordain married men as priests in the Amazon region. He instead emphasized the importance of collaboration in apostolic ministry by Catholics in various states of life.
About the proposal, Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, wrote Feb. 12 that Pope Francis “has decided to respond not by foreseeing changes or further possibilities of exceptions from those already provided for by current ecclesiastical discipline.”
According to Archbishop Aquila, the pope said Feb. 10 that his “primary concern is that the Gospel be proclaimed in the Amazon. And that all of us need to focus on Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel first. Because if we proclaim the Gospel and are faithful to the Gospel then vocations will come forth.”
The pope also spoke, Archbishop Aquila said, “about the importance of having catechists who are well-trained and well-formed and who are true disciples of Christ and the Church, who have a deep love for the Church, to go into those regions [where there are few priests] and catechize.”
Francis said the Church in Africa has done this and is seeing vocations to the priesthood and religious life flourish.
Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee was among a group of bishops who met with Pope Francis Feb. 13.
Bishop Wack told CNA Pope Francis “expressed a little frustration” that many people had “reduced” the entire Amazon synod, which took place over three weeks, to only the issue of priestly celibacy, and they were either “disappointed or elated” that it was not a part of the papal exhortation.
The pope said the issue of priestly celibacy, according to Bishop Wack, “wasn’t really part of the synod at all.”
The bishops of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina met with the pope for nearly three hours Feb. 13. During their meeting they asked the pope what key points of Querida Amazonia he would like them to bring back to their dioceses.
“The synod is about being missionaries, bringing the Gospel of Jesus to our brothers and sisters, especially amidst a lot of difficulties and a tremendous shortage of priests,” Bishop Wack said. “It’s a rich document and it really challenges us to be missionary disciples.”
Archbishop Aquila said in his meeting the bishops also spoke with Pope Francis about transgenderism.
“The Holy Father was very clear,” the archbishop noted. “He said [transgenderism] is one of the great challenges in the United States right now and he said the other is abortion.”
“Both of them really deal with the dignity of human life,” Aquila said. “There are only two genders, male and female, and so how do we open our hearts to receiving that as gift.”
An “ad limina apostolorum” visit is a papal meeting required for every diocesan bishop in the world to provide an update on the state of one’s diocese. The trip to Rome, usually made together with all the bishops from a country or region, typically takes place every five years. It also will usually include meetings with many of the offices in the Roman curia.
The last set of U.S. bishops to make their ad limina visit will be those of the Eastern Catholic Churches, who will be in Rome Feb. 17-21.