Vatican City – Pope Francis is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to make a limited exception to the celibacy rule for priests, one of the most controversial issues in the Catholic Church today.
In October, a summit of bishops known as a synod proposed allowing married men into the priesthood, only in the Amazon area, to address the serious shortage of clergy in remote parts of the rainforest region.
The pope is due to respond to the synod with an Apostolic Exhortation.
The Vatican said the document, called “Querida Amazonia” (Dear Amazon), would be published at noon (1100 GMT).
If the pope decides to allow married priests, this could exacerbate tensions with his conservative critics, who see his papacy as excessively liberal.
Traditionalists fear that any opening could eventually lead to the complete abolition of the celibacy rule for priests, which is not part of church dogma but has been in place since the Middle Ages.
If Francis confirms the status quo, however, he would estrange progressives, such as the German Catholic Church, which is among those most supportive of change.
Francis’ document is also expected to address other issues discussed by the regional synod, including social justice and climate change, minority rights and the role of women in the church.
A previous bone of contention between traditionalists and the pope was his decision in 2016 to soften a ban on Holy Communion for remarried divorcees, as proposed by a previous synod.