For the Pope, the key challenge was to open up to new thinking in order to implement the vision of Laudato Si’.
While the world was waiting with bated breath for a historic decision on whether to ordain married men in Amazonia, Pope Francis was busy going in a very different direction. Some will see “Beloved Amazonia” as ducking an historic challenge, leaving the Church in limbo in order to avoid a contentious decision that would have deepened divisions. But right at the end of the document, Francis offers a revealing window onto his discernment: “Beloved Amazonia” is less about avoiding conflict than about seeing another path where the Holy Spirit is calling the Church.
In paragraph 104 the Pope observes that when pastoral workers propose “opposed forms of ecclesial organisation” in response to challenges, it is likely that the true answer lies in “transcending the two approaches and finding other, better ways, perhaps not yet even imagined.” In the following paragraph he says solutions often come in the form of a “greater gift” that God is offering from which “there will pour forth as from an overflowing fountain the answers that contraposition did not allow us to see.”
This is vintage Bergoglio: in a context of polarisation in the Church the mistake is to try to resolve it by allowing one side to defeat the other. Rather, by patiently and attentively holding together the polarity – positions that pull in a different direction – the leader allows for the possibility of a “third way” that the Holy Spirit offers.
Looking back at the synod last October, it was clear that positions over the so-called “viri probati” were becoming more, not less entrenched. Around two-thirds of the Amazonian bishops arriving in Rome favoured in principle a move to ordain married men to enable the Eucharist to reach far-flung communities, but many were cautious about the wider impact of the change.