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.

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.

POPE FRANCIS VISITS JESUITS IN THEIR ROME HEADQUARTERS

POPE FRANCIS VISITS JESUITS IN THEIR ROME HEADQUARTERS

Pope Francis paid a visit this morning to the Generalate of the Jesuits on Borgo Santo Spirito, just blocks from Vatican City, as the Order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola meets in its 36th general Congregation. The Jesuits elected a new superior during this congregation, Father General Arturo Sosa.

The following report and photos are from the Congregation website:

There is a well-established tradition that on the occasion of a Jesuit General Congregation, the Holy Father meets with the delegates. Since most of the time this happens as an audience in the rooms of the Vatican, there is not a precedent for the pope himself choosing to meet the Jesuits as they are gathered in the General Congregation in the curia of the Society. So this Monday, 24 October, Pope Francis came discreetly to the curia and was greeted by Father General Arturo Sosa and the superior of the curia community, Father Joaquín Barrero.

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These two accompanied him into the aula, and the Pope participated in morning prayer with the delegates. The theme of the prayer, the good shepherd, had been chosen for the occasion. The Ignatian tradition reflection made a reference to Fr. Franz van de Lugt, who made himself pastor of his own in Homs, Syria, until he was killed by the insanity of war. The members of the Congregation prayed for Pope Francis, as he often requests of all those he meets.

Pope Francis came to the General Congregation with a message. He gave an encouraging speech that set a direction. The speech gave a good idea of the manner in which he is coming to see the service of the Church and of the world that the Society of Jesus can offer, a relevant way connected to his own ministry. His whole intervention was characterized by an openness to what lies ahead, a call to go further, a support for caminar, the way of journeying that allows Jesuits to go toward others and to walk with them on their own journey.

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To start out, quoting Saint Ignatius, the Pope recalled that a Jesuit is called to converse and thereby to bring life to birth “in every part of the world where a greater service of God and help for souls is expected.” Precisely for this reason, the Jesuits must go forward, taking advantage of the situations in which they find themselves, always to serve more and better. This implies a way of doing things that aims for harmony in the contexts of tension that are normal in a world with diverse persons and missions. The Pope mentioned explicitly the tensions between contemplation and action, between faith and justice, between charism and institution, between community and mission.

The Holy Father detailed three areas of the Society’s path; we will come back to each of them in the coming days.

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The first is to “ask insistently for consolation.” It is proper to the Society to know how to console, to bring consolation and real joy; the Jesuits must put themselves at the service of joy, for the Good News cannot be announced in sadness.

Next, Francis invites us to “allow ourselves to be moved by the Lord on the cross.” The Jesuits must get close to the vast majority of men and women who suffer, and, in this context, it must offer various services of mercy in various forms. The Pope underlined certain elements that he had already had occasion to present throughout the jubilee year of mercy. We who have been touched by mercy must feel ourselves sent to present this same mercy and, he added, in an effective way.

Finally, the Holy Father invites us to go forward under the influence of the “good spirit.” This implies always discerning, which is more than simply reflecting, how to act in communion with the Church. The Jesuits must be not “clerical” but “ecclesial.” They are “men for others” who live in the midst of all peoples, trying to touch the heart of each person, contributing in this way to establishing a Church in which all have their place, in which the Gospel is inculturated, and in which each culture is evangelized.

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These three last words of the Pope’s speech are graces for which each Jesuit and the whole Society must always ask: consolation, compassion, and discernment.

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ talk to the Jesuits this morning: http://gc36.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/20161024_Discourse_Pope_GC36_EN.pdf