(CNN) — A high-ranking Vatican official has said he is pressing the Catholic Church to consider allowing married men to act as priests in a remote region of the Amazon.
Bishop Erwin Krautler, Secretary for the Commission on the Pan-Amazon Region, wants the subject on the agenda at a meeting in the Vatican in 2019, he told the Austrian news agency KNA.
The proposal centers around the question of allowing faithful Catholic married men to act as priests, including saying mass and hearing confessions.
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, President of the Bishops Commission for the Pan-Amazon, and close friend of the Pope, has long supported the idea.
The region is currently experiencing a shortage of priests and Pope Francis has called for the special meeting of the region’s bishops, called a Synod, to tackle its problems.
Pope Francis said in an interview in March 2017, that he would be open to studying the question.
According to the Vatican, the region includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname and covers a population of 2.8 million people consisting of 400 indigenous tribes that speak some 240 languages.
Most of the population is Catholic, but due to the remoteness of their villages do not have a local priest.
Although the question is currently limited to the possibility of allowing married men to become priests, Vatican observers say it could be a first step towards a wider discussion on celibacy.