Pope dismisses proposal to ordain married men as priests in Amazon

VATICAN CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Pope Francis, in one of the most significant decisions of his papacy, on Wednesday dismissed a proposal that older married men be ordained in the Amazon region to ease an acute scarcity of priests.

The recommendation, put forward by Latin American bishops last year, had alarmed conservatives in the deeply polarised 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, who feared that it could lead to a change in the centuries-old commitment to celibacy among priests.

Francis delivered his response in an Apostolic Exhortation three months after the proposal was made at a contentious assembly of Roman Catholic bishops, or synod, at the Vatican.

Apostolic Exhortations are teaching documents used to encourage the Catholic faithful but do not define Church doctrine. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet)

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