The Austrian-Brazilian "Amazon Bishop" Erwin Kräutler is disappointed by Pope Francis' reform announcements. "He provokes an insane hope," said Kräutler in an interview with "kath.ch". At the 2019 Amazon Synod, many bishops had called for proven men and women from remote church communities to be ordained as priests or priestesses. "And Pope Francis didn't accept it," says Kräutler - "even though he told us bishops beforehand: Make bold proposals to me." This frustrated and disappointed him.
"At the synod, 80 per cent of the bishops voted in favour of viri probati and the diaconate for women," the bishop explained. It is inconceivable that Francis did not mention this at all in his final document of the synod. Kräutler is one of the best-known bishops in Latin America. From 1981 to 2015, he headed the huge Amazonian diocese of Xingu, a region where many Catholics in inaccessible regions can only celebrate mass once a year due to a shortage of priests. In the interview, the bishop is pessimistic about the synodal process of the universal church. "Nothing will come of it," says Kräutler; "it's all in vain". The pressing reform issues would not be discussed there at all.
Kräutler reported from his reality as a "travelling bishop" in remote areas that his arrival was always a celebration. "I was kissed by the whole village. And I was always asked the question: Where is your wife?" As a young bishop, he still said that he was not married. "The head of the village looked at me funny. He just couldn't understand it. Because the concept of celibacy doesn't fit into the reality of their lives," says the Austrian-born bishop. He later said "that my wife is far, far away". The villagers regretted this loneliness - "but at least there were no more strange reactions".
First married priests, then the diaconate for women, then women priests
Nevertheless, Kräutler was also confident about the future and predicted: "Married priests will come first, then the diaconate for women. Women priests will be the next stage." When Pope Francis says that women should not be ordained as priests in order to protect them from clericalism, this is "a joke", said Kräutler: "The unordained men in the Amazon region are much more clerical than the women who lead parishes." He knows "no woman who lives clericalism - none".
"We need women - also in ministries," emphasised Kräutler, and: "It cannot be that ancient men design a theology of women." A next pope could perhaps manage to bring back a "springtime for the Church", as he experienced as a young man at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), said the 84-year-old. In any case, a successor and the Church could not go back on the approaches that Pope Francis had initiated.
Kräutler spoke in Koblach, Austria, before his return to Brazil. He had spent the past two years in his home in Vorarlberg. Kräutler contributed to Pope Francis' environmental encyclical "Laudato si" (2015) as a co-author, among other things. As a bishop, he campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples, small farmers and landless people as well as for the protection of the rainforest. He publicly denounces political and social grievances. In 2010, he was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize for his work. Kräutler's commitment has repeatedly brought him into the sights of business bosses and land grabbers. (KNA)