A special meeting of the Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone has voted to begin discussions on dividing the province in two. Meeting in Asunción, Paraguay, from 12 – 15 November 2011, the synod suggested dividing the province into an Atlantic and a Pacific half with Peru, Bolivia and two dioceses in Chile comprising one province and Argentina, Northern Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay comprising the second.
According to a press statement released by the Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons, the decision to divide came in response to a request made by Uruguay to allow it to seek the oversight of another jurisdiction.
In September 2010, the Southern Cone synod rejected a proposal put forward by the Diocese of Uruguay to allow dioceses to have a local option to ordain women to the priesthood. Uruguay’s diocesan synod responded the following month, endorsing a resolution asking for a transfer out of the province.
Last June the provincial standing committee agreed to advance the date of the general synod by two years, to November 2011 to review Uruguay’s request and to take up the issue of women priests again.
At the special meeting, Uruguay’s request to allow it to ordain women priests was rejected by all three houses of synod. Bishop Lyons reported that a “second motion was entertained to allow Uruguay to seek other oversight and surprisingly, the extraordinary Synod also voted against that action.”
However, discussion on a way forward “stretched into a second day,” Bishop Lyons said, and “it was proposed to multiply the Province into two provinces. This combined a previous desire for growth with a way forward to meet the need in Uruguay.”
The next two years will see the proposal to divide debated at the local, regional and communion level. However, “the diocese of Uruguay still has the option to seek other jurisdiction,” the bishop said. “But the probable future of the Southern Cone briefly envisioned was of two provinces” divided between east and west.