Indigenous priest says celibacy doesn’t cause shortages in Amazon

By Elise Harris, 20 October 2019
Father Justino Sarmento Rezende. Image: Paul Haring/CNS.


Father Justino Sarmento Rezende, one of the few indigenous priests participating in this month’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, has weighed in on the issue of celibacy, saying it is a virtue everyone can live, but refrained from offering an opinion on the issue of married priests in the Amazon.

Asked during an Oct. 17 press conference his thoughts on comments made by Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil that implied the priest shortage in the Amazon, and specifically indigenous communities, is in part because indigenous people have difficulty understanding celibacy, Sarmento Rezende shot down the notion, saying celibacy is “a gift from God” that anyone can live, albeit with effort.

“People from every culture in the world can live in celibacy when, freely and not because they have been forced, a person says, ‘I want to adopt this lifestyle,’” said Sarmento Rezende, an expert in indigenous spirituality and pastoral inculturation who comes from Brazil.

Celibacy, he said, “is not something that was born with the human person,” but is a practice that was established throughout the history of the Church. Because of this, he said, no one is naturally ready to live celibacy, which is a challenge not just for indigenous, but “every normal person can have this difficulty.”

“So it’s very important to live celibacy by making an effort, with help and by living in the most balanced possible way,” he said, adding that if one day he decided that celibacy was no longer something he could live with, “then I would have to leave because it was something I decided.”

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With thanks to Crux and Elise Harris, where this article originally appeared.


The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region will be held in the Vatican from 6 to 27 October. For more information, click here.


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