FINAL DOCUMENT PRESENTED AT 15TH GENERAL CONGREGATION

FINAL DOCUMENT PRESENTED AT 15TH GENERAL CONGREGATION

At 7 this evening, the Holy See Press Office released a summary in Italian of the work this afternoon of the 15th general congregation of the Amazon Synod. Here is my English translation:

#SinodoAmazonico. In the presence of Pope Francis, the 15th General Congregation of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region was held in the afternoon of October 25 and saw the presentation of the Final Document and the election of members of the post-synod council. 182 Synod Fathers were present.

Vatican News – Vatican City

There are 13 members of the Council for the implementation of the Special Assembly of the Amazonia who were elected this afternoon by an absolute majority. Their names represent the main countries that make up the Region: 4 from Brazil, 2 from Bolivia, 2 from Colombia, 2 from Peru, 1 from the Antilles, 1 from Venezuela and 1 from Ecuador. To these elected members will be three more of pontifical appointment. The council will have the task of proceeding with the implementation of the Synod’s instructions.

Presentation of the Document. Immediately after the vote, the 15th Congregation saw the General Relator of the Synod as well as the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, present the final work document in the hall. In introducing the text, the cardinal highlighted the great work carried out by the Commission for the drafting of the document, as well as by the Minor Circles that presented numerous amendments. The text, he said, is inserted into a moment of ecological emergency in which it is necessary to act and not postpone. The preservation of the Amazon is fundamental, he added, for the health of the planet and the Church is aware of this, aware of the fact that an integral conversion is needed for an integral ecology. The Church, in fact, listens to the cry of the peoples of Amazonia and the cry of the earth, which are the same cry, an expression also of great hope. The Synod, the cardinal concluded, serves to reach ecclesial communion, with Peter and under the guidance of the Pope.

Tomorrow the vote. On the morning of Saturday 26 October, the Synod Fathers will be able to dedicate themselves to an individual re-reading of the text, while in the afternoon, during the 16th General Congregation, the vote will proceed. Finally, according to the tradition of the Synodal Assemblies, the Pope offered a special gift to all the Synod participants: the medal of his pontificate for the year 2019 depicting the Amazon.

AMAZON SYNOD BRIEFING: AN AMAZONIAN RITE AND INDIGENOUS SPIRITUALITY

AMAZON SYNOD BRIEFING: AN AMAZONIAN RITE AND INDIGENOUS SPIRITUALITY

While the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon continues discussions of the draft of the final document that will be voted on this Saturday, five Synod participants share their impressions and experiences at a press briefing in the Holy See Press Office on October 24.

By Vatican News

The five presentations provided journalists and media professionals with an opportunity to hear impressions of the Synod, from the inside out.

Sr. Mariluce dos Santos Mesquita, FMA
Sister Mariluce dos Santos Mesquita, FMA, of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, is a religious belonging to the Barassana ethnic community in Brazil. She comes from the “most indigenous of all dioceses in Amazonia”, she said.

Fr. Eleazar Lòpez Hernández
Father Eleazar Lòpez Hernández is an expert in indigenous theology, and a member of the Zapoteca people in Mexico. He described the Synod as “the realization of a dream.” It represents a “new kind of relationship,” he said, based on encounter. Speaking in terms of his understanding of indigenous culture, Fr Hernández said his people “cannot separate God and life”: theology, science, and life are all interrelated for them, he said.

Mr. Delio Siticonatzi Camaiteri
Mr. Delio Siticonatzi Camaiteri is a member of the Ashaninca indigenous people in Peru. He said he came to the Synod to reaffirm “the importance of defending the earth where we live”. He said the Synod experience is a source of hope for indigenous people that has allowed them to speak up for their rights. When they do so in other circumstance, said Mr Camaiteri, “we are murdered”. Instead, he added, this Synod “opens a space for dialogue and encounter” to protect both the Amazon and whole world.

Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa
Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa heads the archdiocese of Belém do Pará in Brazil, which includes “river communities,” and cities that experience “all the challenges of a metropolis”. He said he came to the Synod in order “to seek answers and to give value to all indigenous realities of the Amazon Region.” In his ten years as Archbishop, he said he could testify to the “growth in vocations” in his own, and in nearby dioceses.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella
Cardinal Beniamino Stella is prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. When he was Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia, he had many opportunities to visit the territories of the Amazon Region. He said he saw for himself the “problems of communications and distance.” Which is why the cardinal said he so admires “bishops with a missionary heart,” those he called “heroic pastors,” and their “commitment to their territory.” This Synod has allowed him to “relive the experiences and memories of Latin America,” he said.

A question about an Amazonian rite
The first question was addressed to Cardinal Stella and regarded the proposal to adopt an “Amazonian rite.” The cardinal responded saying it was natural for people to want to communicate through their “local language and symbols, colours, and stories.”

He recalled how the bishops of the Amazon Region are dealing with “diversified realities” that are multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic. Any rite expresses the history and the spirituality of a people, he said.

Fr. Eleazar Lòpez Hernández confirmed that the Churches of Latin America need to express their faith according to their traditions. This is what the proposal for an Amazonian rite is based on, he said. We need to generate something that is “in tune with local traditions,” added Fr Hernández. “Our people have their own religious experiences that give meaning to their lives.” We cannot focus on only one culture or follow a single pathway, he explained.

Sr. Mariluce dos Santos Mesquita added that, as indigenous people, they are here “to say we have our own spirituality.” “We already celebrate rites and live with our cultural values and traditions,” she said. “We are the result of evangelization but we interact and live our celebrations bringing our symbols and Jesus’ message,” said Sister Mariluce. “We need to delve deeper into our spirituality and the Word of God, through sharing, fraternity, and gestures of solidarity, she said.

Mr. Delio Siticonatzi Camaiteri intervened saying the indigenous people of the Amazon Region have their own “world view”, which encompasses nature, and which “brings us closer to God.” As indigenous people, “we experience harmony with all living beings,” he said. “We have our own rituals but they are centered on Jesus Christ. There is nothing else,” he concluded.

A question about expectations
Archbishop Correa was asked whether he was afraid of “disappointing” peoples’ expectations regarding the outcome of this Synod.” He responded saying the Synod Fathers have no “wish list.” “We are walking and sharing together,” in an “enriching dialogue,” he said. Quoting Pope Francis, the Archbishop added: “Without the Holy Spirit, there is no Synod.”

A question about Mary
Responding to a question about Marian devotion in the Amazon Region, Father Eleazar Lòpez Hernández explained how, in the indigenous ancestral tradition, the “relationship with God includes a feminine element”. Strengthening and promoting life “includes male and female components”, he said. God is mercy, and part of mercy is “the feminine element of tenderness”. That is why Mary plays an important role in Latin America, said Fr Hernández. Still, “we need to recover popular religiosity,” he said.

“Maternity, the family, tenderness, these are all associated with Mary,” added Archbishop Correa.

A question about celibacy
Cardinal Stella answered a question about celibacy, confirming the need for a solid priestly formation, and paying special attention to “human characteristics” before deciding to ordain someone. The Catholic Church is the “only institution that preaches commitment for life,” said the cardinal. This is a great challenge, he said. Celibacy is “a gift” that must be accepted “in awareness, with personal discipline, cultivating spirituality, and growing in prayer.” In this way, celibacy has meaning and impact, and becomes a reality, he added. Celibacy is “something beautiful,” concluded the cardinal, “it is a gift from God, to be preserved as a treasure in clay vessels.”

A question about funding
Finally, in response to a question regarding the funding of the synod, the prefect of the Dicastery for Communications, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, stated that the Synod of Bishops is “an ecclesial event,” and is funded exclusively “by the Holy See.”

14TH GENERAL CONGREGATION #SINODOAMAZONICO

After a busy weekend, as you’ve seen from my various posts, the final week of the Amazon synod began this morning with the 14th General Congregation. Below is my translation of an Italian language summary of the morning’s work.

In synod-related news, a video surfaced early this morning showing perpetrators taking statues from a church near the Vatican and throwing them in the Tiber River. The stolen statues depicted an amazonian figure that has featured prominently in recent days at the synod – a naked, pregnant female whom no one at the synod has clearly said this represents.

Of the scores of bishops and laity present at the synod, many of whom are natives of the Amazon region, there is great perplexity as to why no one can say who this statue is or represents! One bishop did say it was not the Virgin Mary. Lovely! That selfie video was posted on Youtube and has gone viral. I reposted on this page.

In non-synod news today, Pope Francis sent a video message of congratulations to the International Christian Maritime Association for its 50th anniversary as it participates in the October 21 to 25 11th World Conference in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Francis said the anniversary “gives me the opportunity to encourage you to continue, with renewed ecumenical spirit, your service to people of the sea. … Help the people of the sea to know Jesus Christ and to live according to His teachings, with respect and in mutual welcome.”

14TH GENERAL CONGREGATION #SINODOAMAZONICO

Vatican News – Vatican City

Presentation of the draft of the Final Document.
In the presence of Pope Francis, the 14th General Congregation of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region was held this morning, Monday, October 21. 184 the Synod Fathers present in the hall on Monday. The synod ends October 27.

It was the Relator General, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo and president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), who presented the draft of the final document of the Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazon region in the synod hall. The text, which gathers the fruits of the interventions presented during the congregations, will now be turned over to the small language groups for developing (laying out) the “collective ways.”

The program for coming days.
On Wednesday and Thursday, these amendments will be included in the final Document by the General Rapporteur and the Special Secretaries, with the help of the Experts. Therefore, the text will be reviewed by the Commission for Editing and then read in the hall Friday afternoon, during the 15th General Congregation. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, the 16th General Congregation will vote on the Final Document.

The homily of Monsignor Cabrejos Vidarte.
At the opening of today’s Congregation, the customary prayer of the Third Hour was said. The homily was given by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo and president of CELAM, who urged us to look at the example of St. Francis and the “Canticle of the Creatures.” “For Francis,” he emphasized, “beauty is not a question of aesthetics, but of love, of fraternity at all costs, of grace at all costs.” The Saint of Assisi, he added, “embraces all creatures with a love and devotion never seen before, speaking to them of the Lord and exhorting them to praise Him. In this sense, Francis becomes the inventor of medieval sentiment for nature.”

Knowing, recognizing and giving back.
The president of CELAM said that knowing, recognizing and giving back are the three verbs that articulate the “rhythm” of the spiritual journey of the Poor One of Assisi, that is, knowing the Supreme Good, recognizing its benefits and giving back in praise. If for St. Francis, in fact, sin is an appropriation “not only of the will, but also of the goods” that the Lord works in human beings, praise, on the contrary, means restitution. “The human being,” Abp. Cabejos Vidarte confirmed, “cannot praise God as it should, since sin has wounded his sonship” with the Lord.

God, the Father of all and of all things.
Thus it will be the creatures, as St. Francis affirms in his “Canticle to Creatures,” who will carry out the work of mediation to bring praise to God. In fact, they fill the void of the human being who, because of sin, lacks a voice worthy of praising the Creator.” “St. Francis discovers in God the place of Creation,” concluded the bishop, “and returns Creation to God, because he sees in it not only the Father of all, but also the Father of all things.” The morning’s work closed with a special guest who focused on the topic of integral ecology, in particular in relation to climate change.

SYNOD’S 12 SMALL LANGUAGE GROUPS ISSUE REPORTS

I am happy that Vaticannews published the following report because I had started to plod through the 39-page, 19,100-word press office bulletin that contained the reports of the 12 small language groups of synod participants (2 Italian, 4 Portuguese, 5 Spanish and 1 French/English – the latter issued its report in Italian), wondering how long it would take me to find the issues on which there was agreement and those in which there was not, and to get a feeling for the ideas and issues and comments that participants would send eventually to the Pope for his reflection for a post-synodal document.

Choosing a category such as ordaining viri probati, celibacy and the married priesthood or what do participants see as an “official” ministerial role for women, would narrow down the reading, and I’ll still do that in coming hours and days.

For now, here is the Vatican’s version of the language groups reports:

SYNOD’S 12 SMALL LANGUAGE GROUPS ISSUE REPORTS

The thirteenth General Congregation, which took place on Thursday afternoon, October 17, was devoted to the presentation of the reports written by the Small Circles. 177 synod fathers were present, as well as Pope Francis. The contributions, submitted to the General Secretariat of the Synod, do not constitute an official document of the Synod or a magisterium text. Rather, it is a summary of the discussions that took place among the participants of the Assembly.

Vatican News – Vatican City

The Synod is a precious gift of the Spirit for the Amazon and for the whole Church, both from the theological and pastoral point of view, and for the inescapable task of caring for our common home. It is a Kairos, a time of grace, a favourable opportunity for the Church to reconcile with the Amazon. This is the red thread that unites the twelve reports of the small circles presented in the hall on Thursday afternoon.

A universal Synod
All the publicly read texts express the hope that in the Amazon a new synodal path will develop and that from the assembly of bishops in the Vatican a new start will be made with an ardent missionary passion typical of a true outward looking Church. The hope is that the Amazonian “good life” will meet with the experience of the Beatitudes: in fact, in the light of the Word of God, it reaches its full realization. There are many and varied concrete proposals from the various circles that need clarification: the current one is not only a regional Synod, but universal, what happens in the Amazon affects the whole world.

Church on the side of the poor and against all forms of violence
An imperative for the Church is to listen to the cry of the people and of the earth; do not be silent, to stand on the side of the poor so as not to make a mistake and say “stop the violence”. The latter in the Amazon has several faces: violence in overcrowded prisons; sexual abuse and exploitation; violation of the rights of indigenous peoples; the murder of defenders of the territories; drug trafficking and narco-business; extermination of the youth population; trafficking in human beings; feminicide and macho culture; genocide, biopiracy, ethnocide: all evils to be fought because they kill both culture and spirit. The condemnation of the systematic extractivist violation and deforestation is clear. Someone has in fact highlighted the link between abuse of the weakest and abuse of nature. Among the various emergencies highlighted, ample space has been given to the theme of the climate crisis.

Proposed International Ecclesial Observatory on Human Rights
It is the natives who pay the highest price with their lives, because they are not assisted, they are not protected in their territories. This is why more than one Small Circle has called for the establishment of an International Observatory of Human Rights, in the conviction that the defence of peoples and nature must be the prerogative of ecclesial and pastoral action. It is also suggested that parishes should create safe spaces for children, adolescents and vulnerable people. The right to life of all from conception to natural death is reaffirmed.

Church not an NGO. More ecumenical dialogue
The Church – one of the reports advises – has the task of accompanying the work of the defenders of human rights often criminalized by public authorities. At the same time, however, it must avoid resembling an NGO. This risk, together with the risk of presenting oneself in a purely ritualistic capacity, often causes the loss of many faithful who seek answers to their thirst for spirituality from religious sects or other confessions. From the Small Circles comes the request to pursue ecumenical and interreligious dialogue with greater energy with the proposal of two centers of comparison, one in the Amazon and one in Rome, between the theologians of RELEP (Network of Latin American Pentecostal Studies) and Catholic theologians.

Ministries, laity and rejection of clericalism
A ministry of presence is called for to avoid clericalism. In this regard, a greater role must be given to the laity. Almost all the Small Circles have asked for a deeper understanding of the meaning of the “ministerial Church”, that is, a Church where the co-responsibility and commitment of the laity coexist. The “Spanish A” Circle asks, for example, that men and women be given ministries in an equitable manner, while avoiding the risk of clericalizing the laity.

Woman and deaconate
The theme of women is present in more than one relationship with the request to recognize, even in roles of greater responsibility and leadership, the great value offered by the presence of women in their specific service to the Church in the Amazon. For example, in the workplace, we are asked to guarantee respect for women’s rights and the overcoming of any kind of stereotype. Most Small Circles have called for attention to be paid to the issue of diaconate for women from the perspective of Vatican II, bearing in mind that many functions of this ministry are already performed by women in the region. However, it has been suggested that more than one speech should be devoted to the subject in another assembly of bishops, where perhaps women should be given the power to vote.

Priesthood and viri probati
Suggested is an ad hoc Universal Synod also on the theme of the viri probati. On this subject, the perspectives differ from one working group to the next. If it is pointed out that the value of celibacy, a gift to be offered to indigenous communities, is not in question, Italian Circle A warns against the risk that this value will be weakened or that the introduction of viri probati could lose the missionary impetus of the universal Church in the service of the most distant communities.

Most of the reports, mainly those of Spanish and Portuguese, aimed at a Church “of presence” rather than “of visit”, are in favour of a way of conferring the priesthood on married men, of good reputation, preferably indigenous chosen by the communities of origin, but under specific conditions. It is also stressed that these priests should not be considered second or third category, but true priestly vocations. We should not forget the drama of many populations currently receiving the sacraments once or twice a year in the Amazon, we have also been asked to strengthen in local communities the awareness that not only the Eucharist, but also the Word represents a spiritual nourishment for the faithful.

Vocational crisis and priestly formation
Considering the size of the pan-amazonic territory and the scarcity of ministers, the creation of a regional fund for the sustainability of evangelization has been hypothesised. In addition, the Italian Circle A expressed “perplexity” about “the lack of reflection on the causes that led to the proposal to overcome in some form priestly celibacy as expressed by the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Magisterium. At the same time, it is hoped that there will be ongoing formation in ministry aimed at configuring the priest to Christ, and it is urged that missionaries who currently exercise their priestly ministry in the north of the world be sent to the Amazon.

In the face of the vocational crisis, the Small Circles note a substantial decrease in the presence of religious in the Amazon and hope for a renewal of religious life, which, at the instigation of the Latin American Confederation of Religious, CLAR, will be promoted with renewed ardor, especially as regards the contemplative life. Eyes are also being focused on the formation of the laity: let it be integral and not only doctrinal, but also Kerigmatic, founded on the social doctrine of the Church and leads to an experience and encounter with the Risen One. At the same time strengthening the formation of priests is being proposed: it should not only be academic, it should take place in the Amazon territories and provide concrete experiences of the Church looking outwards, alongside the people who suffer, in prisons or hospitals. The establishment of indigenous seminaries where local theology could be studied and deepened has also been proposed.

Intercultural dialogue and inculturation
The Small Circles are also asking for the consolidation of a theology and pastoral care with an indigenous face. Intercultural dialogue and inculturation should not be understood as antithetical. The task of the Church is not to decide for the Amazonian people or to take a position of conquest, but to accompany, to walk together in a synodal perspective of dialogue and listening. For example, the proposal to introduce an “Amazonian Rite” has been advanced, which would allow the spiritual, theological, liturgical and disciplinary development of the singular richness of the Catholic Church in the region. As explained in one of the reports, “symbols and gestures of local cultures can be valued in the liturgy of the Church in the Amazon, preserving the substantial unity of the Roman rite, since the Church does not want to impose a rigid uniformity in that which does not affect the faith”.

The promotion of knowledge of the Bible is also suggested, encouraging its translation into local languages. In this perspective the creation of an Ecclesial Council of the Panamazonic Church was proposed, an ecclesiastical structure linked to CELAM, and connected with REPAM, and with the Episcopal Conferences of the Amazonian countries. “The Amazonian cosmovision” – it is stated in one of the reports – has so much to teach the western world dominated by technology, very often at the service of the “idolatry of money”. The Amazonian peoples consider their territory sacred: a reflection on the spiritual value of the biome, of biodiversity and of the right to land should therefore be encouraged. On the other hand, the proclamation of the Gospel and the originality of Christ’s victory over death, while respecting the culture of peoples, must be considered an essential element for embracing and understanding the Amazonian cosmovision

Mission and martyrdom
The missionary is called to strip him/herself of the colonialist mentality, overcome ethnic preconceptions, respect customs, rites and beliefs. The manifestations with which peoples express their faith – the Small Circles state – should be appreciated, accompanied and promoted. The creation of a panamazzonic socio-pastoral Observatory in coordination with CELAM, the diocesan justice and peace commissions, the CLAR and REPAM was also suggested. Lights and shadows must be recognized in the history of the Church in the Amazon.

A distinction must be made between the “indigenous” Church, which considers indigenous people as passive recipients of pastoral care, and the “indigenous” Church, which understands them as protagonists of its own experience of faith, according to the principle “Save the Amazon with the Amazon”. It is also important to value the shining example given by many missionaries and martyrs who in the Amazon gave their lives for the love of the Gospel. The Spanish Circle A proposes to encourage the processes of beatification of the Amazon martyrs.

Migration, youth and cities
In the texts read in the hall we do not forget the populations in voluntary isolation and we ask that they be accompanied by the work of itinerant missionary teams. There is also room for the theme of immigration, especially among young people. Today, 80% of the population of the Amazon is in the cities. This is a phenomenon that often has as its negative effects the loss of cultural identity, social exclusion, disintegration or family destabilization.

The evangelization of urban centres is therefore becoming increasingly urgent, but pastoral work must adapt to circumstances without forgetting the favelas, the suburbs, as well as rural realities. There is also an urgent need for renewed youth ministry. On the pedagogical front, the Church is asked to decisively promote bilingual intercultural education and to encourage an alliance of university networks specializing in the science of the Amazon and intercultural higher education for indigenous peoples.

Protection of Creation and the Ecological Dimension
The ecological dimension is central in the relations of the Small Circles where it is reaffirmed that Creation is a masterpiece of God, that all creation is related. It must not be forgotten that “a true ecological conversion begins in the family and passes through a personal conversion, through the encounter with Jesus”. From this premise it is imperative to address the most practical issues such as raising temperatures or combating CO2 emissions.

It encourages a more sober lifestyle and the protection of unique precious goods such as water, a fundamental human right, which, if privatized or contaminated, risks compromising the lives of entire communities. The value of medicinal plants should also be highlighted, as should the development of sustainable projects, through courses that lead to the knowledge of the secrets and sacredness of nature according to the Amazonian vision. Some circles propose to develop reforestation projects within training schools in agricultural techniques.

Ecological sin and the promotion of an economy of solidarity
In this context, there is a double proposal; to include the theme of integral ecology in the directives of the Episcopal Conferences and to include in Moral Theology respect for our Common Home and ecological sins, also through a revision of the manuals and rituals of the Sacrament of Penance. Humanity – recognize some Synod Fathers – is moving towards the recognition of nature as a subject of law. “The utilitarian anthropocentric vision is obsolete and man can no longer subject the resources of nature to unlimited exploitation that endangers humanity itself.” It is necessary to contemplate the immense set of forms of life on the planet in relation to each other, also promoting a model of solidarity economy and establishing a ministry for the care of our Common Home, as proposed by the Portuguese Circle B.

Synod on the Amazon and Communication
Finally, a number of reports have given space to the subject of the media. Catholic communication networks are encouraged to place the Amazon at the centre of their attention, to spread the good news and denounce all kinds of aggression against Mother Earth, and to announce the truth. Also proposed is the use of social networks for web radio, web TV and radio communication in order to disseminate the conclusions of this Synod. The hope is that the river of the Synod, with the strength of the “Amazonian river”, overflows with many gifts and ideas being reflected on by the fathers who have spoken in the Hall and that from this experience of walking together new paths for evangelization and integral ecology can spring up.

AMAZON SYNOD BRIEFING: EDUCATION AND THE RIGHTS OF NATURE

AMAZON SYNOD BRIEFING: EDUCATION AND THE RIGHTS OF NATURE

Synod participants continue their discussions in small working groups on Thursday morning. In early afternoon, a panel of experts shared their experiences during a briefing at the Holy See Press Office, including an indigenous educator from Guyana, an expert in indigenous spirituality, and a specialist in indigenous rights.

By Vatican News
Ms Leah Rose Casimero
Ms Leah Rose Casimero coordinates a bilingual education programme for Wapichan children in Guyana. In her presentation, she spoke of how education systems have been “imposed” on her people “along with everything else.” The time has come, she said, “to take our future into our own hands.” This implies “creating something better for our children” in terms of culture, traditional knowledge, and language, she said. In her educational model, language is not taught as a subject, but as the medium itself. Ms Casimero is herself Wapichan and said indigenous people are not often listened to. This is not the case in the Synod, however, where she feels people respect one another, speaking and listening “as partners.”

Ms Patricia Gualinga
Ms Patricia Gualinga is an indigenous leader of the Kichwa community in Sarayaku, Ecuador. In her intervention she called for an “institutional commitment” to save the Amazon. Confirming it is one of the most important biomes on the planet, she said this kind of commitment would be “for the benefit of all humanity.” The Church is present in the Amazon Region, said Ms Gualinga, but needs to be even closer to the indigenous people “who are in the forefront” and who risk being “persecuted and killed.” Nature, she concluded, is our common home.

Dr Felicio de Araujo Pontes Junior
Dr Felicio de Araujo Pontes Junior is a specialist in indigenous rights who works in Brazil. He described how he provides legal protection to indigenous people living in the forests, and along the rivers of the Amazon, when they come into conflict with “development models that are imposed on the region.”

Fr Justino Sarmento Rezende, S.D.B.
Fr Justino Sarmento Rezende has been a Salesian priest for 25 years, and is an expert in indigenous and inculturated pastoral spirituality in Brazil. His presentation focused on creating an Amazonian Church with “a new face.” He spoke of “giving value to tradition and cultures,” and said he dreams of developing “new ways of evangelizing.” Fr Rezende concluded by inviting journalists present in the Vatican Press Office to “come to the Amazon and see for yourselves!”

Archbishop Roque Paloschi
Archbishop Roque Paloschi of Porto Velho in Brazil said his intervention at the Synod had dealt with the issue of “indigenous people living in voluntary isolation.” He quoted Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato sì, when it addresses the dangers of allowing cultures to disappear, and repeated the need to “protect our vulnerable brothers and sisters” in the Amazon Region.

A question about a Church with an Amazonian face
In response to a question, Fr Justino Sarmento Rezende expanded on the idea of a Church with an Amazonian face: “A face is an expression of what is in our hearts,” he said. In this sense, it doesn’t necessarily mean doing things the way the original missionaries did, he added. We need to “evangelize in our own language,” we need to “know and understand the lives of indigenous people.” This means being “present,” said Fr Rezende.

A question about intercultural education
Answering a question directed at her personally, Ms Leah Rose Casimero described something of her experience in the field of intercultural education with Wapichan children in Guyana. That experience is just a year old, she said, as the bilingual model was only implemented in September 2018. Which is why “training teachers is a priority,” she said.

Ms Casimero explained how this is the first experiment at “incorporating indigenous language, knowledge, traditions, and ways of life,” with national educational standards. In fact, the Ministry of Education in Guyana is starting to revise the education system in the country and is following her programme “with interest,” she said, to see if it can be applied among other indigenous people.

A question about inculturation
Archbishop Roque Paloschi responded to a journalist who asked whether inculturation was seen as “an end in itself.” He explained that the Church is committed to inculturation which means respecting “both sides,” not eliminating the culture of the other, but preserving that which is already present. He quoted Benedict XVI as saying the Church does not evangelize by proselytizing, but by witnessing.

A question about development models
Dr Felicio de Araujo Pontes Junior responded to a question concerning development models, and considering nature as a legal issue. He distinguished between what he called “predatory models,” like logging and mining, and “socio-environmental models” that engage with institutions and governments.

Research shows that “a new species is discovered in the Amazon every 15 days,” he said. The Amazon forest is an “asset,” he added. Allowing it to thrive “makes economic sense,” and the indigenous people are “the guardians” of these assets. “Nature has rights,” concluded Dr de Araujo Pontes. “Humanity cannot destroy ecosystems in the name of progress,” he said

UPDATES FROM THE SYNOD: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15

Another long read but one that gives, once again, an idea of what participants are saying in the General Congregations. Interestingly enough, we never have the identity of the speakers, as was once the modus operandi of General Congregations. You’ll find some fascinating proposals made by some of the participants regarding ministries, Canon Law and a few other things.

UPDATES FROM THE SYNOD: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15

Synod participants are now meeting in small language groups. Their work will be presented to the assembly on Thursday afternoon, 17 October. The 11th and 12th General Congregations were held, respectively, on Tuesday morning and afternoon. Vatican News English-language reports on those sessions follows.

The 11th General Congregation of the Special Synod for the Amazon Region on the theme “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology” took place in the Vatican on Tuesday morning in the presence of 180 Synod Fathers and Pope Francis.

The need to urgently create a permanent and representative episcopal structure, coordinated by REPAM (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) to promote synodality in the Amazon: this was one of the suggestions that emerged from the morning congregation. Integrated with CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council), the proposed structure should help implement the face of the Amazon Church, aimed at a more effective, shared pastoral care – also giving concrete form to any indications that Pope Francis may wish to provide after the Synod – and working for the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, the integral formation of pastoral agents and the creation of Amazonian seminaries. This joint pastoral action, elaborated synodally by all the Pan-Amazonian dioceses would be useful to face common problems, such as the exploitation of the territory, crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution.

An Observatory for Human Rights and Protection of the Amazon
Participants at the morning congregation then turned their attention to the indigenous peoples, focusing on the problems that stem from colonisation, internal migration and the advancement of predatory and colonialist economic models, which often kill. This entails the expropriation and eviction of communities from their territories, forcing them to migrate against their will. The nomadic indigenous peoples must be understood through a specific pastoral care, so that their human and environmental rights are always guaranteed. This includes their right to be consulted and informed before any action takes place in their respective territories. In this regard, a permanent observatory for human rights and the protection of the Amazon was suggested. The cry of the earth and of the Amazonian peoples must be heard, giving voice, above all, to young people, because it is a question of inter-generational justice.

Inculturation and education
The theme of inculturation was also discussed: the need for the Church to open up and discover new paths in the rich diversity of Amazonian cultures in order to be more like a disciple and sister than a Teacher and Mother, with an attitude of listening, service, solidarity, respect, justice and reconciliation. Linked to the theme of inculturation, the education of indigenous Amazonian peoples was brought up again, an education that is, unfortunately, characterised by poor quality and discontinuity. What can the Church do as one of the most qualified and powerful institutions in the field of formation? It was suggested that structures coordinate better with one another in order to offer improved services to indigenous peoples. For example, Catholic universities could introduce a preferential option for the education of indigenous peoples, or generate solidarity strategies to economically support indigenous universities, such as Nopoki, in Peru. The aim of this would be to protect the right to cultural identity and safeguard the ancestral wisdom of the original Amazonian peoples, in the name of dialogue and exchange of cultures, sensitivity, languages and visions.

Missionary commitment and the witness of the martyrs
The Synod Fathers then reflected on the theme of violence: it was stressed that the Amazon is like a woman who has been raped and whose cry needs to be heard, because only in this way can evangelisation be reawakened. The effective proclamation of the Gospel takes place only when it is in contact with the pain of the world that is waiting to be redeemed by the love of Christ, thanks to a theology of life. Strong reference was made to the precious example of the martyred missionaries of the region, such as Bishop Alejandro Labaka, the Capuchin tertiary nun Inés Arango, and Sister Dorothy Stang, who gave their lives in the name of the cause of the defenceless Amazon peoples and for the protection of the territory. It was reiterated in the Synod Hall that missionary work in the Amazon must be supported more. For this reason there were ideas about creating a financial fund, both national and international, to strengthen the mission in the region, especially to cover transportation costs and to train the missionaries themselves.

The ecumenical challenge
Missionary commitment must also be carried out from an ecumenical perspective because a missionary Church is also an ecumenical Church. This challenge also concerns the Amazon: far from any kind of proselytism or intra-Christian colonialism, Christian evangelisation is the free invitation, regarding the freedom of others, to enter into communication and engage in life-giving dialogue. An attractive evangelisation will, therefore, be the proof of credible ecumenism. Another point for reflection was offered by music, a common language understood by all that leads one to reflect on the communication of faith. It must not contradict doctrine – explained the Synod Fathers – but must make it understood through human sensitivity. In this way, the Good News will be attractive to all, journeying towards that rebirth of the sacred that is lived even in the far-flung areas of the Amazon.

The response of the Eucharist
Faced with the difficult situations that are experienced in the Amazon, important answers come from the Eucharist, through which God’s grace passes, and from a widespread ministry, which also begins with women, who are undisputed protagonists when it comes to transmitting the radical meaning of life. It was mentioned in the Synod Hall that we must ask ourselves if it might be necessary to re-think ministry. Many communities have difficulty celebrating the Eucharist because of the lack of priests. It was suggested that the criteria for selecting and preparing ministers authorised to administer the Eucharist be changed, so as not to limit this ministry to only a few.

Women in ministry, following the example of antiquity
New paths to ancient traditions are needed, reaffirmed the Synod Fathers. Some of the interventions during the Congregation recalled the ancient practices that saw ministries linked to women. The Synod Fathers reflected on the possibility of restoring similar ministries, particularly for the ministry of Lector and Acolyte. Another intervention mentioned the possibility of dispensing with celibacy, in order to ordain married men as “ministers” who, under the supervision of a responsible local priest, could minister in far flung ecclesial communities. At the same time, it was suggested that a fund be set up to finance the formation of the laity in the biblical, theological and pastoral spheres, so that they can better contribute to the evangelising mission of the Church. A final reflection regarded the importance of base communities and consecrated life, which offers a prophetic message to the ends of the earth.

Pope Francis attended the 12th and final General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops on Tuesday afternoon. There were 173 Synod Fathers present.

The Amazonian world wants a Church that is allied to it. The Synod participants were reminded that the Church cannot speak of the poor while forgetting that the people are being crucified. That would be committing the sin of indifference, of omission. The Church is called to take up the cry of the people and of the earth, with the Gospel as her point of departure. This is the only way that she will assume the countenance of the Good Samaritan, will become missionary, capable of defending the least, without being afraid of the possibility of martyrdom. “It is better to die fighting for life, than to live for death,” as one person boldly stated. Thus the Synod continued its journey with a reminder that came up in several interventions to leave space for the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit rather than remaining closed in by functional solutions.

No to victimization, more co-responsibility
The populations in several of the more vulnerable regions of Amazon see themselves as having often been abandoned. One example are street children. The Church is called to help them to boost their self-esteem, to prevent them from becoming victims. In the end, this too is a risk because it is not solving the underlying problems. The region itself is undeniably a victim of abuse. What is truly necessary, it was noted, is to help the people themselves feel co-responsible for the construction of their own destiny. Believers, therefore, should be at the forefront of reclaiming their rights and assuming the obligation of living simply and hopefully as they journey toward the Kingdom promised by God to His children.

Fundamental contribution of science for the care of creation
The cry for help arising both from the people and from the earth involves a response from everyone. Believers are called to recognize the value of every creature. In fact, care for our Common Home is rooted in the Christian vocation. Action is a must on the part of individuals, communities and the world. A disinterested response is not possible. The future of entire generations is at stake. Protecting the Amazon from man-made destruction is a responsibility that touches all of humanity. Thus arose the appeal for a global response to climate change through the creation of an entity that would coordinate scientists and academics on the international level with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The hope was also expressed that greater work be undertaken in the field of education to sensitize the public regarding the care of our Common Home. It was even proposed that a new Canon – an ecological canon – be added to the Code of Canon Law that would treat the duties of Christians regarding the environment.

Putting out into the deep for a profound ecological conversion
The Church’s appeal is that of putting out into the deep, assuming the call for a profound ecological, synodal, and complete conversion to Christ and His Gospel. Walking together as a universal family is the invitation now being extended, within the conviction that the Amazon region does not belong to either the States or those who govern them. They are, rather, administrators and they must be accountability of what they are doing.

Through the daily gift of self made by the laity – consecrated or married – the Church as “sacrament” will be truly be formed in Amazonia, and will manifest the presence of Christ in that region. The need was expressed for a spirituality and a sacramental theology capable of allowing itself to be challenged by the lived experience of the communities and the gifts which they have already received. In this regard, the work already undertaken to coordinate efforts at the level of the local church (such as REPAM) was encouraged.

Symmetry of relations
An intercultural dialogue inspired by the Spirit of Pentecost was also highlighted. The invitation is to let go of the habit of imposing or of appropriating in order to embrace, what was termed a “symmetry of relations.” Humility was named as the attitude necessary for such a dialogue, founded on the common conviction of being co-responsible in the care of the Common Home. What is not possible alone can be done together. This requires the urgent construction of an inclusive “we” in which every person, although each is different, is necessary precisely because each is different. Thus the proposal for the creation of formative processes in intercultural dialogue in which theory can be tested by praxis.

The drama of priestless communities
Once again, the Synod participants were reminded about the realistic drama of the many communities, an estimated 70% in the Amazon region, that are visited by a priest only once or twice each year. They are deprived of the sacraments, of the Word of God, of those celebrations so central to the Christian life, such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. Some choose to frequent other Christian denominations so as not to remain in the condition of “sheep without a shepherd.” The universal Church cannot remain indifferent to this situation. Courageous choices, open to the voice of the Spirit, need to be made. It was also pointed out how fundamental it is to pray to the “Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest.” The pastoral care of the people of God is “first and foremost the concern of the Lord,” one Synod Father stated. Thus we must ask Him for the solutions.

Mission: in the footsteps of Jesus
It seems to some that the passion for mission has faded in the most remote areas. Some areas are heavily affected by the consequences provoked by large, unsustainable mining projects: illness (some of which are non-curable), drug trafficking, loss of identity. The international community needs to be exhorted not to invest in industrial projects that provoke harm and illness to the surrounding populations. In addition, the Amazon needs missionaries, for they are the only ones that the local populations still trust.

One such missionary effort that was spoken of is the precious contribution of itinerant missionary teams inspired by Jesus who visited village after village without stopping, without even having a place to stay. This provides a model for the Church always “on the move,” leaving behind a pastoral ministry meant to preserve the past to one that is creative. Certain structures, it was noted, are already obsolete and are in desperate need of updating. We can no longer be “obsolete” while the rest of the world moves ahead. The Gospel, in fact, always has something new to say. This too is a part of the ecological conversion. Openness to new forms of ministry means the incorporation of women and young people.

Migrants in the cities, torn from their territories
The Church is called to enter into the everyday lives of men and women – collegially and synodally. Once again, the topic of migrants – those uprooted and transplanted in the cities – was brought to the attention of those in the hall. There in the cities, they are forced to confront strong contrasting situations: political, social, economic, the existential void, exasperated individualism. Making the Gospel present there is a duty, and in this way, the city becomes a place for mission and sanctification.

It was therefore recommended that a specific pastoral ministry be promoted in this context which considers the indigenous migrants as the protagonist. The connection of the land with a particular people as expressed in the Bible helps understand the gravity of tearing a people away from their own territory. Defending their territory is of utmost importance both for the Amazonian biome and for the way of life of the local populations. In this sense, an “intransigent defense” of the indigenous peoples was recommended. This includes the right to their own culture, their own theology, their own religion – these are riches that need to be safeguarded in the interest of all humanity.
Finally, the problem of food was brought up. With its fresh water, the Amazon could contribute in reducing hunger in the world. In fact, 26% of the world’s fresh water comes from this region. Due to this fact, one person suggested that sustainable projects should be encouraged.

At the end of the 12th General Congregation, just before the part dedicated to spontaneous interventions, Pope Francis asked to speak. When he had finished, those in the hall watched a film about the floating hospital named after Pope Francis which was inaugurated this past August. This hospital serves two purposes: bringing the Gospel and health care to hundreds of thousands living in the Brazilian State of Parà along the Amazon River who can only be reached by river.

SYNOD UPDATE: DAY 6, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12 – SYNOD UPDATE: DAY 7, MONDAY, OCTOBER 14

Depending on the time of day you read this, you might want a second cup of coffee or perhaps a glass of prosecco!

Synod participants in coming days will meet in the circuli minores, the smaller language groups, where they will discuss the themes heard in recent days in the synod hall as well as make comments, reflections and suggestions. Under Popes John Paul and Benedict, the names of the participants in each language group and the names of the moderators of each group were published. That is not currently happening in this synod.

SYNOD UPDATE: DAY 6, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12

The first week of the three-week Special Synod for the Pan-Amazon region concluded on Saturday evening, 12 October. Along with the Pope, there were 166 Synod Fathers in the hall, along with others participating in the Synod.

Vatican News – Vatican City

One of the themes put forward in the eighth General Congregation of the Special Synod for the Pan-Amazon region on Saturday afternoon was the centrality of Christ in the Church’s mission. “How many know the Gospel?”, one of the Synod participants asked. In addition, it was affirmed that the Good News must be announced not only in the Amazon, but in the entire world. Since evangelization is never undertaken alone, the creation of a team was proposed. The hope is that this team would be able to both respond adequately to the multiple pastoral challenges facing the region and witness to the joy of evangelization.

A Reflection on celibacy and the priesthood
Once again, the proposal for viri probati returned in more than one intervention. Some contributions highlighted that the lack of vocations is not particular to the Amazon. This led to the question, “Why make an exception exclusively for that region?” Taking up this theme in a future Synod was also suggested. Another observed that it is precisely because of celibacy that priests are welcomed by some indigenous populations. Furthermore, it was also stated that today’s world sees celibacy as the last rampart to be demolished using the pressure of a hedonistic and secular culture. It is, therefore, necessary to carry out an attentive reflection on the value of a celibate priesthood.

Others pointed out that a discussion regarding new models of priesthood is both inevitable and desirable. If on the one hand, sending priests to other dioceses and regions is encouraged, then on the other hand, ordaining wise men of proven faith should also be recommended. This hypothesis would not wound communion in the Church, nor would it undermine the value of celibacy. Rather, it might represent a decisive step toward achieving an ordained ministry that does not just visit a territory, but comes from and remains present in it. Another argument is that this response is not being put forward to solve the lack of vocations, but that the Church might have an identity that is truly Amazonian. It was also suggested that the Synod could lay the foundation for this new step forward in faith in the Holy Spirit that must be stronger than the fear of making a mistake.

Involving women: an antidote to clericalism
The theme of women in the Church was also brought up again in the afternoon, with the request that they be given more pastoral responsibility and effective participation, even at decision-making levels. Discerning the institution of women deacons in the region was also requested. Women today have already acquired greater roles in the life of the Christian community, not only as catechists or mothers, but also as persons capable of taking on new ministries. In addition, it was proposed that the inclusion of women, under the sign of reconciliation of the covenant, could lay the foundation for a less clerical Church. Clericalism is still present in the Church today, one Synod participant emphatically stated, and is an obstacle to service, fraternity and solidarity.

Listening to the Holy Spirit
A Synod exists to listen constantly to the Holy Spirit. This attitude of listening was proposed as the attitude that might guide and inspire an ecological conversion necessary to counteract the environmental destruction that threatens our planet. The Synod participants were reminded that the Creator entrusted the Amazon to our care. It is the most beautiful and vital garden on the planet. But unfortunately, we risk transforming this “terrestrial paradise” into a “hell” because of the fires raging which could deprive certain indigenous peoples of their indispensable heritage. Walking together means listening to “the agony of Mother Earth” and becoming aware of the “violence behind extractive ethnocide.” The appeal made by indigenous Amazonian organizations is that of reversing the tide so as not to fall into greater danger.

Everything is connected
We are all connected to each other. “Good living” (“buen vivir”) does not mean living “the good life”. Rather, it means that we are connected to each other and to the earth. The fragmentation of human existence that leads to disparity in terms of social condition needs to be rejected and condemned. Even though globalization has brought undeniable benefits to our lives, it has also opened the door to “wild capitalism” and a materialism that has created an extremely harmful form of consumerism. While the developed world demands cheap products, the indigenous populations who make them often pay the price in blood. From this reality emerged the appeal for a more simple style of life and for an ecological conversion that embraces fairer trade in the name of justice and peace.

Toward a Church with an indigenous face
Once again the request was heard in the Synod hall to be constantly aware of the suffering of the indigenous population who have a sovereign right to exist in the Amazon. Discovering the seeds of the word of God in the cultures and traditions of the region means recognizing that Christ already lives in the peoples who have not yet heard the Gospel. The Gospel, in fact, is not the exclusive patrimony of any one culture. It is this approach that favours the existence of an indigenous and Amazonian Church, one person said. One proposal is that an a new regional structure be instituted which would continue the momentum created by the positive experience of the networks created in the pre-Synod process and the inspirations of the Spirit received during the Synod.

Gift of religious life in the Amazon
Those at the Synod also heard a precious example of an indigenous person whose life has been offered to God through the religious life, thus helping the Church assume an indigenous face. Men and women religious struggle together for the rights of the people. They also feel called to pursue in their own ongoing formation the discovery of connections between their own indigenous heritage and Christian spirituality. In this way they hope to contribute to an integral ecology leading to the protection of both humankind and nature.

SYNOD UPDATE: DAY 7, MONDAY, OCTOBER 14

Following is a Vatican News summary of the content of the 10th general congregation on Monday afternoon, October 14. Following that is the Vatican News summary of the early afternoon October 14 press briefing.

Vatican News – Vatican City

During the 10th General Congregation that took place on the afternoon of 14 October, the participants in the Special Amazon Synod continued their work. In addition to Pope Francis, there were 177 Synod Fathers present, as well as other auditors, experts and invited guests.

Rethinking ministry in the Church in the light of the parameters of synodality so that the Church might be more and more formed by the Word of God was defined as one of the challenges of the Church in the Amazon region. Several interventions given this afternoon in the Synod Hall highlighted this.

The Word of God
The Word of God is an active and merciful presence; it is educative and prophetic, formative and performative. It underpins that challenge of integral ecology and can be a means for social, economic, cultural and political development and a new humanism. New ministers of the Word, including women, are needed to provide new responses to contemporary challenges. The Church must, therefore, invest in the formation of a well-prepared laity who, in a missionary spirit, will know how to proclaim the Gospel in every part of the Amazon. Providing an adequate formation for committed laity, it was noted, is also fundamental for promoting indigenous vocations to the religious life and ordained ministries.

The role of the laity and women
It was also said in the Hall that the gifts of the laity need to be better expressed and appreciated in a ministerial Church. Thanks to the laity, the Church is manifesting itself as a Church moving outward, distancing itself from clericalism. One intervention in particular suggested that the question of the so-called viri probati and the discussion regarding ministries open to women should be treated in an Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops since this theme affects the universal Church. Others suggested that women could be included in non-ordained ministries, ministries intended as service, so as to guarantee the dignity and equality of women in the entire Pan-Amazonian territory. Such ministries could be, for example, that of presiding over celebrations of the Word, or leading the activity of a social-charitable nature.

Viri probati
Another intervention counselled that prior to having viri probati priests, it would be necessary to think of viri probati deacons—that is, that the viri probati priests would come from the ranks of permanent deacons. The Permanent Deaconate can, therefore, be an appropriate “laboratory” for the possible future inclusion of married men to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Care for minors and vulnerable adults
Regarding the care of minors and vulnerable adults in the Amazon, the terrible scourge of pedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse requires that the Church be ever vigilant and courageous. It was emphasized that the greatest challenge is that of transparency and responsibility so that these crimes can be prevented and combated.

Sexual exploitation of the young was a recurring theme. One person said that criminal networks rob children of their infancy, making them also victims of the trafficking of organs. One statistic alone suffices to illustrate how dramatic the situation is: in 2018 in Brazil alone, 62,000 rapes were recorded. This is one of the highest numbers in the Amazon region.

At the bottom of all of this are grave economic inequality and the lack of government intervention capable of combating such horrendous crimes both at the local and international levels. Thus arose the appeal for an increased commitment in the area of prevention, including the involvement of the Episcopal Conferences and religious congregations.

The fight against human trafficking, which also heavily involves minors and women, was brought to the attention of those in the Synod hall. They were reminded that the victims of this drama are among the most dehumanized in the world. It was proposed that through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, large companies be made to comply with international policy regarding human trafficking and that a Special Pastoral Commission be instituted to deal specifically with this crime.

Pastoral work for vocations and youth ministry
From other interventions, there emerged the importance of the pastoral work for vocations that cannot be left out of the work of evangelization. Furthermore, all evangelization must be accompanied by youth ministry which is a call to, and at the same time, a proposal for, a personal encounter with Christ. Those in the Hall were reminded that young people who wish to follow Christ need to be supported by adequate formation through the witness of holy and committed lives. It follows that priests must be capable of understanding completely the specific needs of the Amazon region. Their formation cannot be excessively academic, but most proceed with a missionary spirit and the heart of a shepherd.

Water: a primary resource
Forming catechists toward an integral ecology was underlined again, particularly regarding caring for and safeguarding water, a primary resource and source of life. This theme was also repeated by several auditors and invited guests. One provided the statistic that thousands of children die every day due to water related diseases. Another recalled what Pope Francis has said in the past that the next world war will be connected with water. It is urgent that there be a global awareness of the need to protect our common home, and that we be reconciled with creation. “Later will be too late”, those in the hall were told. An “ecological conversion” consists also in looking at the ethical dimension underpinning contemporary life styles which are often too technocratic, whose ultimate objective is that of turning everything into profit to the detriment of the vision of the human being as an integral human person.

The challenge of communication
A theme from the morning’s 9th General Congregation was repeated in the afternoon: that of communication. It was affirmed that through the mass media we must be open to communicate to every culture and in every language in order to support the Amazonian peoples. Church-sponsored media should, therefore, be a place to consolidate local knowledge that can be done through the formation of indigenous communicators.

Other reflections made by various Synodal Fathers included defending the indigenous peoples, which could also be carried out through education and through other small projects aimed at social development. Because they are often marginalized from society, indigenous populations should not be viewed as “incapable”, but must be empowered, listened to, understood and welcomed. From this theme, emerged the invitation for greater cooperation between the Justice and Peace Commission and that for promoting human rights.

Pope Francis’ reflection
When the Congregation concluded, Pope Francis spoke, reflecting on various themes that had emerged during the afternoon and highlighted a few things that had struck him the most.

OCTOBER 14 – PRESS BRIEFING

Amazon Synod Briefing: New challenges and new solutions
Four participants at the Synod for the Amazon met journalists in the Holy See Press Office on Monday afternoon for an exchange of experiences and impressions regarding the 9th General Congregation.

By Vatican News

The 9th General Congregation, held on Monday morning, was attended by 179 Synod Fathers, together with Pope Francis, who opened the session with a prayer for Ecuador. This was confirmed by the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, Dr Paolo Ruffini, before he invited Jesuit Fr Giacomo Costa, Secretary of the Information Commission, to provide a summary of what was discussed in the Synod Hall.

Summary by Fr Giacomo Costa SJ
Fr Costa began by affirming how Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato sì, is proving to be more than just a text, but truly rooted in the realities discussed at the Synod. This is being demonstrated by the way “everything is connected,” he said.

Amazon Synod: The Church’s commitment against violations of the rights of peoples
Summarizing what was discussed in the Synod Hall on Monday morning, Fr Costa listed several themes: dialogue with indigenous people, and the importance of participating in their lives, protecting local peoples’ rights and safeguarding nature. He said the need to remain rooted in the ground of experience coming from local territory was also mentioned.

The Synod Fathers discussed the challenges to local ministries, he said, how to inculturate the liturgy, and how to respond better to the needs and cultures of the people. The Eucharist, continued Fr Costa, was presented as “a source of unity and light.” Participants at the General Congregation, he said, confirmed we are “custodians of nature,” and stressed the integral and ecological focus of the Synod.

Participants at the morning session, said Fr Costa, affirmed the Church’s role of protecting and promoting the local people, of accompanying those without a voice. A suggestion was put forward to set up an international ecclesiastical observatory on the rights of indigenous people. Some Synod participants confirmed the importance of the Church integrating her perspectives into practices concerning human rights.

Fr Costa continued his summary of the proceedings that included the topic of “circular economic models”: access to food that respects the environment, and has a positive impact on local populations. These models can be achieved through an “integral education” that helps promote an equitable consumption of goods, he reported.

Not just education, but information too, was a topic that came under discussion, said Fr Costa. According to Synod participants, the “communication culture” is growing rapidly in the Amazon Region, and we need to “bridge the communications gap.” This means training local indigenous communicators, and establishing communications networks based on community and solidarity.

Ms Josianne Gauthier, Secretary General CIDSE (Canada)
CIDSE, the “Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité,” an umbrella organization for Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America. She began her presentation by saying how CIDSE has spent over 50 years supporting communities, including in the Amazon, promoting integral ecology and defending human rights.

We are here at the Synod, she said, in a “listening position,” to hear stories and to begin work on how to support these messages outside the Synod “in political spaces.” The task of CIDSE, she explained, is to ”take struggles and turn them into political pressure.”

Ms Gauthier said those of us who live “from the benefits of the tragic exploitation” that takes places in that part of the world, have a “heightened responsibility.” We need to recognize that “our well-being and comfort comes at a cost,” she said: human life, security, peace, and ecological justice.

Ms Gauthier concluded saying we need to promote consciousness and concentrate on “doing what we can after the Synod to transmit these messages.”

Bishop José Ángel Divassòn Cilveti, S.D.B. of Bamaccora (Venezuela)
Bishop Divassòn Cilveti is a Salesian. The Salesians, he said, have been working in the south of Venezuela since 1957. Reflections after the Second Vatican Council led to a new approach that began in 1976, he said: developing new forms of evangelization that support people and help them “take control of their own destinies.” Priests, laypeople, men and women religious, are all involved in this mission and have developed criteria based on participating in people’s live, and respecting communities, educating them, and assisting them with projects, he said.

In order to evangelize effectively, said Bishop Cilveti, we need to be familiar with people’s feelings, to understand what they think. Speaking in terms of his own experience, he said people “want to follow Jesus Christ, they want to change.” The Gospel has brought new concepts like mercy and forgiveness, he said, and these become the keys to solving many problems and conflicts.

The Bishop concluded by describing the Church in his region as a “young Church with different features,” one that helps people to help themselves.

Bishop Carlo Verzeletti of Castanhal (Brazil)
Bishop Carlo Verzeletti comes from Castanhal, in Brazil. His diocese comprises over 1,000 villages beside the mouth of the Amazon River. His priests, he added, “are few and aging.” They are able to meet people only a few times a year when they visit to celebrate Mass. This “running from one place to another,” does not offer the “presence and proximity, the support and comfort,” the people desire, he said.

The priest becomes the “distributor of the sacraments,” he added. This is why Bishop Verzeletti supports the ordination of “viri probati,” approved married men, “so that the Eucharist can become a reality that is closer to people and communities.” These would not be “second-rate priests,” he added, but men who are formed accordingly, “devoting their lives to others.”

Bishop Verzetti said his region has been severely affected by colonization and globalization: the result is secularization, religious indifference, and the influence of the Pentecostal churches. “Popular piety cannot resist the impact,” he said.

As an example, Bishop Verzetti said there are 750 Pentecostal churches in his city alone, and only 50 Catholic churches.

He has ordained 110 Permanent Deacons, he said, and works at empowering laypeople, “but with difficulty.” Were the Pope to consider the reality of “viri probati,” concluded the Bishop, “we have worthy people who could be ordained priests.”

José Gregorio Dìaz Mirabal (Venezuela)
Mr José Gregorio Dìaz Mirabal is Coordinator of COICA, the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin. His organization represents 4 million indigenous people spread over 4,500 communities in all six countries of the Amazon Region.

The Catholic Church, he said in his presentation, is the only organization calling for the world “to wake up.” Speaking as an indigenous person, he said, “we will disappear if we don’t do something.”

The presence of COICA at the Synod, said Mr Mirabal, is to support those who are struggling to protect the land, to stop the “violent invasion of development projects,” including hydroelectric schemes, uncontrolled mining, and the agri-food industry. He spoke of those who are imprisoned and murdered for speaking out against land grabbing, or while trying to stop the pollution of the air and water.

Mr Mirabal concluded by inviting the media to help disseminate these messages.

A question about statistics
The first question was addressed to Dr Paolo Ruffini and concerned statistics from the Amazon Region. The Prefect of the Vatican Communications Dicastery responded that, while pre-Synod preparations had produced statistical materials, this is not a study conference that requires statistical data. The Church is reflecting on “how to serve the Amazon though pastoral activities,” he said.

The Synod is not about “percentages,” he added, but about “how the Universal Church relates to a territory.” And a territory is best described by those who live there, said Dr Ruffini.

Bishop José Ángel Divassòn Cilveti confirmed that studies on the Church in the Amazon Region have been made by REPAM, and that this data was collected and published in preparation for the Synod.

A question about sovereignty
Responding to a question on possible interference in the Synod by local governments in the Amazon Region, Bishop Carlo Verzeletti re-affirmed the Church’s respect for the sovereignty of Brazil, in particular. The Church does not give “technical solutions,” he added, but guidelines so that life and rights in the Amazon Region are respected. Resolving economic problems in Brazil doesn’t mean opening up areas in the Amazon that will improve the lives of the rich, but not “the lives of our people,” he said.

With regard to a meeting in the Vatican between the Vice President of Brazil and the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, Dr Ruffini said it had “no influence on the Synod.” The meeting was about “diplomatic relations between States,” he said, and there was “no connection” with the Synod for the Amazon.

A question about future Pan-Amazonian organization
A question was asked about the possibility of setting up a future Pan-Amazonian organization after the Synod. It was confirmed that the topic had been raised in one of the small working groups, but there was a concern about multiplying too many organizations when the REPAM network already exists.

Ms Josianne Gauthier added that any form of collaboration is helpful when it comes to defending human rights. As long as there is “clarity of intention,” she said her organization would work with whatever structure is decided upon.

A question about viri probati
In connection with the ordination of approved married men, or “viri probati,” Jesuit Fr Giacomo Costa stressed the desire of the Pope that “all issues” be discussed in order to discern appropriate solutions. Fr Costa confirmed there are “different positions” on this issue, but that “everyone is listening in a respectful way.”

Dr Ruffini added that while some may be in favour and others against, in the end it is not the Synod that decides. The Synod will eventually entrust its reflections to the Holy Father as “something that is still in progress.”

A question about Ecuador
Responding to a question about the ongoing violence in Ecuador, José Gregorio Dìaz Mirabal said that what is happening throughout the region, “pains all of us.” There are so many challenges in search of solutions, he said.

Bishop José Ángel Divassòn Cilveti added that it is important to be aware of what is happening in these situations. We can only understand if we “look at the overall picture,” he said.

A question about Church investments
A question was asked regarding Church investments in projects in the Amazon Region. Fr Costa responded saying the Church has already disinvested and is disinvesting from certain products and companies.

Ms Josianne Gauthier added that disinvestment is a way by which the Church can show her “coherence with Laudato sì and integral ecology,” the connection between “words and actions.”

A question about the Church’s Amazonian face
The last question was about the kinds of changes that need to be made if the Church in the Amazon Region is truly to have an “Amazonian face.”

José Gregorio Dìaz Mirabal responded by repeating that it is not up to the Synod to make decisions. He confirmed, however, that the Church “must reach out” and must be reflected in the realities of the local people. He admitted that the Church needs support, and needs to build greater unity with the indigenous people in some parts of the Amazon Region.
In order to make one another stronger, he concluded, we need to “walk together – even if it means going barefoot.”