THE AMAZON SYNOD: ON MIGRATION AND MINING, RIVERS AND HUMAN RIGHTS, DEFORESTATION AND WOMEN DEACONS
The Vatican news team issued an Italian summary of the main points made this morning by some participants on this second day of the pan-Amazon synod. Lists are made available of the speakers at each day’s morning or afternoon sessions but the specific points raised, as you will read below, are not attributed to specific people.
During the years I worked at VIS, the Vatican Information Service, we always dreaded the announcement of a fall synod because of the huge burden of work it placed on us and on so many others who worked for the Roman Curia. The main duty of those of us who worked with the 4 languages of VIS – English, Spanish, French and Italian – was to write a summary of each presentation of each person as delivered in the synod hall.
You see, each synod father or person who would speak at the gathering was to present, long before the start of the synod, a one-page summary of his or her presentation to the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. Copies of those summaries – in whatever language they were written – were delivered to our office. My Spanish language colleague and I then wrote summaries of the interventions and they were translated into the VIS languages. Our daily bulletin was comprised of those summaries, along with the names of the people who delivered them. So we always knew how a prelate or lay person or fraternal delegate or invited guest or head of a curial office thought about an issue.
That was a lot of work for us (and there was a lot of overtime!) but we were able to help people following the synod to understand the daily dynamics and the individual positions of each synod participant.
That is obviously no longer true. One of the best ways now to find who said what and what happened in a General Congregation is via the daily press briefings. Videos of those briefings are posted daily as the press conference is underway.
If you tune in, for example, to vaticannews.va and click on the English language, you can listen to the press conference as it takes place via an interpreter.
What was absolutely fascinating about today’s vaticannews summary was that what was probably the most sensational statement in that 1,000 word presentation was the very last sentence: “Finally, among the proposals put forward, was that of thinking about the possibility of a diaconal ordination for women so as to enhance (take advantage of) their ecclesial vocation.”
The following is my translation of the Vatican News story:
“The defense of human rights and the urgency of formation were at the center of the Third General Congregation on Tuesday morning, October 8 of the Special Synod for the Pan-Amazonian Region. The presentation of the interventions on the Instrumentum Laboris continued in the presence of Pope Francis. One hundred and eighty-three (183) Synod Fathers were present.
“The defense of human rights and the drama of the criminalization of leaders, communities and social movements were among the topics examined this morning by the 3rd General Congregation of the Special Synod for the Pan-Amazonian Region. In the Amazon, in fact, the number of martyrs in this area is frightening, so much so that between 2003 and 2017 the indigenous who died defending their territories totalled 1119. Not only: often, social leaders are victims of impunity and insufficient state powers that do not guarantee their safety. In this perspective, it was reiterated that the Church must defend those who struggle to protect their lands by creating, where they do not already exist, specific protection networks or activating at the diocesan level permanent actions of solidarity and the promotion of social justice. The Church’s task, it has been said several times, is to raise the voice against projects that destroy the environment. At the same time, the Synod Fathers highlighted the importance of promoting a more participatory policy and an economy far from the ‘culture of waste’, focusing instead on experiences of alternative economics, such as that of small cooperatives that trade forest products directly, without going through the big producers.
“The fight against predatory extractive models
In the hall, there was also talk of the contamination of the rivers into which the waste from mining activities is often poured, and of deforestation, an increasingly concrete threat in the Amazon due to the massive sale of timber or cultivation of coca, but also favored by weak environmental legislation that does not protect the riches and natural beauty of the area. On this point, the Church has been urged to denounce the distortions (misuse) of predatory, illegal and violent extractive models, and to support the international regulations that protect human, social and environmental rights because the cry of pain from the looted land is the same as the peoples who live there. The defense of original populations was also recalled through the martyrdom of so many missionaries who gave their lives for the indigenous cause and for the protection of those who are exploited and persecuted by threats passed off as ‘development projects’.
“Amazonia, land of migrations
The Synod also reflected on the issue of migrations, those of the indigenous peoples towards big cities, and those of the populations that cross the Amazon to reach other countries of destination. Hence the importance of a specific pastoral care of the Church: It was noted in the hall that the Amazon region as an area of migratory flows is, in fact, an emerging reality, a new missionary front that must be faced in an inter-ecclesial sense. There must be greater collaboration between the local Churches and other organizations involved in the sector. It was also recalled that the drama of migration also affects the youth of Amazonia, forced to leave their countries of origin because they are increasingly threatened by unemployment, violence, trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking, prostitution and exploitation. It is therefore necessary for the Church to recognize, promote, support and strengthen the participation of Amazonia youth in ecclesial, social and political spaces, since young people are ‘prophets of hope’.
“The urgency of training
Thus, the Synod reflected on the importance of a Church of communion that includes the laity more so that their contribution supports ecclesial work. The complexity of contemporary life, in fact, often requires specific skills and knowledge which priests do not always have to answer questions. For this reason, faced with the many challenges of current affairs – including secularism, religious indifference, and the dizzying proliferation of Pentecostal churches – the Church must learn to consult and listen more to the voice of the laity. The enhancement of the role of the laity has returned to the center of reflections, even where there has been talk of the lack of priests and the difficulty, therefore, of bringing the sacrament of the Eucharist to the faithful. It is necessary to go from ‘pastoral care of a visit’ to ‘pastoral care of presence,’ including looking at the new charisms that manifest themselves in lay movements whose potential must be recognized and more deeply studied. For this reason, reaffirming that celibacy is a great gift of the Spirit for the Church, some Synod Fathers asked to think about the priestly consecration of some married men, the so-called ‘viri probati’, then evaluating over time the validity or otherwise of such experience. For some, however, such a proposal could lead the priest to be a simple official of the Mass and not, instead, a pastor of the communities, a master of Christian life, a concrete presence of the closeness of Christ.
“The new paths for ministries
It was noted in the hall that, faced with the urgency of pastors for the evangelization of the Amazon, we need a greater appreciation of consecrated life, but also a strong promotion of indigenous vocations, together with the possibility of choosing ministers authorized to celebrate the Eucharist or to order permanent deacons who, in the form of a team, accompanied by pastors, can administer the Sacraments. Another point of reflection was that of the formation of ordained ministries, conceived on three levels: a widespread formation at the parish level, with reading and meditation on the Word of God; an intensive full-time formation, intended for animators and animators of communities, and a systematic theological formation for candidates for ordained ministries and for men and women who wish to engage in lay ministries. The important thing – this was emphasized – is that the formation of seminarians is re-thought and becomes closer to the life of the communities. Finally, among the proposals put forward, was that of thinking about the possibility of a diaconal ordination for women so as to enhance (take advantage of) their ecclesial vocation.”