A conference of Catholic bishops in Rome is set to discuss whether to allow married men to be ordained.
The three-week conference in the Vatican, commencing today, will discuss whether it is time to loosen the doctrine of celibacy.
The Catholic Church is seeking to spread the faith among indigenous communities in the Amazon region.
The conference will discuss means of achieving this during the Amazon Synod of Bishops over the coming weeks.
One of the barriers to achieving the spread of Catholicism to these regions is that there are not enough priests in remote areas.
As a result of this, some of the faithful only see a priest as little as once a year.
— Christopher Lamb (@ctrlamb) October 4, 2019
The suggestion from bishops in South America and some of the indigenous people is that the criteria for becoming a "minister authorized to celebrate the Eucharist" should be loosened.
It has also been suggested that some people in communities in the most distant parts of the region could be allowed say Mass, even those with a family of their own.
The 'instrumentum laboris' working document for the Synod suggests that older men could be permitted to perform the Mass.
It says: "Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life."
This would mark a break with centuries of tradition for the Church.
Backers of the move say it might be supported by some bible verses referring to the practices of the early Christian church.
Really good use of the metaphor of fire in @Pontifex’s homily at the opening Mass of the #AmazonSynod...the fire of heaven that creates and the fire of hell that destroys. #ComeHolySpirit pic.twitter.com/wgBl2GizHg
— Mark Coleridge (@ArchbishopMark) October 6, 2019
Pope Francis opened the conference today by condemning the destructive "interests" which led the breakout of wildfires in the Amazon region.
Climate change will be among the other issues discussed at the conference, including migration, urbanisation, family and education.
The working document says that climate change and the increase in human intervention from deforestation, fires and changes in land use "are driving the Amazon towards a point of no return".
Additional reporting by Stephen Bourke