Bishop Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil, originally from Austria, suggested in an interview in Die Presse on Thursday that there could be significant steps coming in the question of mandatory celibacy. This could be on a regional basis for places such as Latin America.
90% of all communities in the Amazon have no Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. 70% have Mass two or three times a year – otherwise a Liturgy of the Word is held. Kräutler’s diocese has 800 communities and 27 priests – “That says it all,” he comments.
Asked how the admission requirements for priestly ministry might be loosened, Kräutler said, “There are various possibilities. Celibacy should not have to be required for there to be a celebration of the Eucharist… One suggestion would be that we decouple celibacy from the Eucharistic celebration. That the celebration of the Eucharist is made dependent upon a celibate priest – I do not go along with this.”
“People have a right [to the Eucharist],” Kräutler said. “It is not a privilege.”
Asked if this means the rules have to change, the bishop replied, “Certainly, and I have also told the pope this. The pope is very open. He won’t have a recipe for immediate change. But the pope said to me in exact words: the bishops, the regional bishops’ conferences, should make brave, courageous suggestions.”
Bishop Kräutler told of his private audience with Pope Francis the beginning of April of this year. He has reported on the meeting to the Brazilian bishops’ conference. “Most likely a commission will be founded which will take up the ball and discuss, how can we help the pope? He called for proposals from us, this is his desire.”
As to whether Francis would implement such reforms, Kräutler said, “I hope so. Previously this process was not allowed. Benedict XVI said that we should pray for priestly vocations. With this pope, it is different. He wants to put a process into motion. This is the new thing. There are doors opening.”
Bishop Kräutler was asked about Francis having said that the door to women’s ordination is closed. “As long as the door is there…” he said wryly. “The door is not bricked shut. But I don’t believe women’s ordination will come under this pope.” He believes that the door should be opened – “But I don’t wish to act prematurely on this.”