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.”