The Archbishop of Armagh has said he understands that there was some "disappointment" that the Pope has not responded to the proposal of married men becoming priests in the Amazon region. 

Yesterday, Pope Francis dismissed a proposal designed to ease an acute scarcity of priests in the Amazon, where the Catholic Church faces growing competition from Evangelical Christian faiths.

The proposal, put forward by Latin American bishops in 2019, had alarmed conservatives in the church, who feared it could chip away at the centuries-old commitment to celibacy among priests.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Eamon Martin he said while people expected the pontiff to address this proposal in his letter on the Amazon, he believes the Pope did not focus on it so as to to encourage all of us to focus on "bigger questions" such as other people's roles within the church.

He said "Pope Francis might be disappointed that this is what we are talking about" when he covered much more in his exhortation on the Amazon.

For his part, Archbishop Martin said he is "very much open" to change and the question of married men being ordained and he believes that Pope Francis is too. 

"He doesn't shut the idea down. He leaves it open for further discussion within the church."

Catholic communities across the Amazon say they will keep pushing for married men to be allowed to celebrate mass in the remote rainforest region.

The pontiff's decision affects isolated communities in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and other countries in the Amazon basin.

Francis delivered his response in an Apostolic Exhortation, three months after the proposal passed the synod by 128 votes to 41. Apostolic Exhortations are used to instruct and encourage the Catholic faithful but do not define Church doctrine.

Under the synod-formulated proposal, older married deacons with stable families who were proven leaders of remote Catholic communities would have been free to be ordained as priests.

Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers. They can preach, teach, baptise and run parishes, but they cannot say mass. Married men can become deacons.

Because only priests can say mass, people in at least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend the liturgy every week and some have not done so for years.

Meanwhile, the parish priest of Abbeyleix and Raheen in Co Laois, has said he is personally disappointed at the Pope's decision and believes the majority of priests would share that disappointment.

Fr Paddy Byrne said there is a community of people in the Amazon "that are hungry for faith" and there now seems to be a self-imposed famine by alienating women and men from administering the eucharist for them. 

He said the answer to this problem was very easy and was presented to Pope Francis by bishops last year.

He warned that the Catholic Church in Ireland will face a similar problem in the coming years, saying that there are "probably more bishops in Ireland now than young men in formation for priesthood."