One comment on celibacy at today’s press briefing turned a few heads and sent fingers flying over keyboards when Bishop emeritus Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil said, in answer to a question if married permanent deacons were the answer to the lack of priests in the Amazon region: “indigenous people do not understand celibacy. They do not understand why a man would not be married, Why does he not have a women by his side who cares for the house and home? It was difficult to explain to people my commitment to the priesthood that included not being married.”
Will that comment get traction in the daily discussions? Stay tuned!
Vocations to the priesthood, celibacy, the permanent diaconate and roles for the laity in the Church, especially women are a fair part of the reflections that have been made so far in the general congregations of the Pan-Amazonia synod. Sunday’s Mass in St. Peter’s basilica presided over by Pope Francis, officially opened the 21-day meeting.
Other issues, as you will see below in my translation of the Vatican-provided summaries of the daily General Congregations, include a great emphasis on ecology and “ecological sins,” human rights, migrations, young people, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, meeting the needs of the Amazonian peoples, Indian theology and local traditions, and urban pastoral ministries – and much more.
There are daily press briefings in the Holy See Press Office that are carried live each day starting at 1:30 pm Rome time at http://www.vatcannews.va
4TH GENERAL CONGREGATION, TUESDAY AFTERNOON, OCTOBER 8
Vatican News – Vatican City
#Amazonsynod. The Church confesses “ecological sins”. Priests should be saints. With the 4th congregation Tuesday afternoon, the second day of work of the Special Synod for the Pan-Amazonian Region ended. 182 Synod Fathers were present at the congregation in the presence of the Pope. (vatican media)
The systematic violation of the rights of the original peoples of the Amazon and the life at risk of the entire region, wounded in its habitat, were at the center of reflections of the fourth congregation of the Synod of Bishops.
‘No’ to indifference, ‘yes’ to responsibility.
A strong appeal that the Church with her authoritative voice in the moral and spiritual sphere will always protect life, denouncing the many structures of death that threaten it. No’ to individualism or indifference that make us look at reality as spectators, as on a screen. ‘Yes’ to an ecological conversion centered on responsibility and on an integral ecology that focuses above all on human dignity, too often trampled.
International community and human rights violations.
The unacceptable situation of environmental degradation in the Pan-Amazon region – it was denounced – must be tackled seriously by the entire international community, which is often indifferent to the shedding of innocent blood. The native populations, custodians of the natural reserves, evangelized with the cross of Christ, must be considered as allies in the fight against climate change in a synodal perspective, that is, a journey “together”, in friendship. In the intervention of a fraternal delegate in this regard, the need to join forces and engage in dialogue was highlighted, because friendship – he said – “respects, protects and cares.” The invitation to the Church to become an ally of the basic social movements has come from many quarters. An ally that offers itself in humble and welcoming listening to the Amazon worldview, in understanding the different meaning, with respect to the Western tradition, given by local cultures to ritual symbols.
Greater knowledge of “ecological sins.”
A sustainable development that is socially just and inclusive and combines scientific and traditional knowledge has been emphasized, because the future of the Amazon region, a living and non-museum reality, is in our hands. Also hoped for is an ecological conversion that would make us see the gravity of the sin against the environment as a sin against God, against our neighbor and future generations. Hence the proposal to deepen and disseminate a theological literature that includes together with the traditionally known sins the “ecological sins.”
Promoting the indigenous permanent diaconate.
Enriching the reflection on ministries was the appeal to join forces in the formation of Amazonian missionaries, lay and consecrated. It is necessary to involve the indigenous peoples more in the apostolate, starting with the promotion of the indigenous permanent diaconate and the enhancement of the lay ministry, understood as an authentic manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It also called for a greater involvement of women in the Church.
Reflection on the priestly vocation.
The theme of the criteria for admission to the ordained ministry returned in more than one intervention. There are those who have urged prayer for vocations, asking for the transformation of the Amazon into a great spiritual sanctuary from which to raise the prayer to the “Lord of the harvest” to send new workers of the Gospel. The numerical insufficiency of priests – it is known – is not only an Amazonian problem, but common to the whole Catholic world. Hence the call for a serious examination of conscience on how the priestly vocation is lived today. The lack of holiness is in fact an obstacle to evangelical witness: pastors do not always carry the scent of Christ and end up driving away the sheep they are called to lead.
The scent of sanctity and the young.
Also highlighted was the shining example of the martyrs of Amazonia, like the two Servants of God killed in Mato Grosso: Salesian Father Rudolf Lunkenbein and a lay person Simão Cristino Koge Kudugodu. In fact, ecological conversion is primarily a conversion to holiness. This has enormous power of attraction among young people, for whom renewed, more dynamic and attentive pastoral care is called for. It was asked that, also through the media, the many witnesses of good priests be emphasized and not just the scandals that today fill so many pages of newspapers. Furthermore, if wounds such as violence, drugs, prostitution, unemployment and an existential void threaten new generations, it should be stressed that there are no lack of positive examples of many young Catholics.
The 4th congregation Tuesday afternoon that was presided over by the Pope opened with the prayer of the whole assembly for Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araújo, who died that same day in Belo Horizonte.
5TH GENERAL CONGREGATION – WEDNESDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 9
Vatican News – Vatican City
#SinodoAmazonico. Proposals for a female lay ministry. The work of the Pan-Amazon Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican is continuing. 174 fathers were present this morning during the course of the 5th General Congregation
The integral health of the Amazon was one of the concerns expressed this morning by the synod fathers. The model of development of capitalism that devours nature, the fires that are destroying the region, corruption, deforestation and illegal cultivation in fact threaten both the health of people and that of the territory and of the entire planet.
Protect populations in voluntary isolation.
Attention focused on indigenous populations in voluntary isolation, particularly vulnerable and exposed to genocide. To keep the attention on this issue high, we feel the need to establish an international ecclesial observatory for the protection of human rights and the needs of these communities.
More dialogue: the Church reaches the local populations.
The slowness sometimes registered by the Catholic Church in meeting the needs of the population was highlighted. Sometimes, in fact, it is far from the local peoples and this void is filled by the proposal of the neo-Pentecostal churches.
The ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue remains urgent and indispensable: Respectful and fruitful, (this is) a fundamental dimension for the outgoing Church in the Pan-Amazonian region, marked by a multicultural context. Inter-culturality is more than a challenge. ‘No’ to imposing one’s own culture from above. ‘Yes’ to the acceptance of the other and to a healthy decentralization in a synodal perspective. The Church, without hiding the difficulties, is missionary, has an indigenous face and favors a logic according to which the periphery becomes the center and the center becomes a periphery in a rich movement of mutual transformation.
Ministries respond to the needs of Amazonian peoples.
The appeal to a greater involvement of the laity with the creation of new ministries that respond to the needs of the Amazon peoples is also part of a synodal perspective: May the Church be creative in proposing a multi-faceted ministry between the Indians and the peoples of the forest. Since Vatican Council II, greater efforts have been requested in favor of an inculturation of the liturgy, with celebrations respectful of both the traditions and languages of the local peoples and the integral message of the Gospel. Careful discernment on the part of the bishops is needed so that no solution can be excluded a priori, not even the ordination of married men. The request of many seminarians for an affective formation aimed at treating the wounds caused by the sexual revolution resonated: today many wish to rediscover and know the value of celibacy and chastity. The Church does not keep silent about this, but offers its treasure: the doctrine that transforms hearts.
A lay female ministry.
At the same time, rampant violence against women must be combated. The idea of establishing a lay female ministry for evangelization was launched. It is necessary to promote a more active participation of women in the life of the Church in a Samaritan perspective.
Unity in diversity.
Unity in diversity must be pursued according to the image of a multifaceted stone often suggested by the Pope. There has been a request to pass, in the school of Jesus, from a pastoral visit to a pastoral presence, from listening and proclaiming divine tenderness to promoting the care of the ‘common house’ not only among friends, but also between those who are far away and think differently. The values of universal brotherhood, of integral ecology and of lifestyles inspired by “good living” must be rooted in Jesus as a response to the many egoistic proposals of our times.
Faced with the global climate tragedy, the Synod is a moment of grace and a great opportunity for the Church to promote an ecological conversion and an integral education.
Migration and urban pastoral care.
The issue of migration, whose main causes are socio-political, climatic, economic or ethnic persecution, has also been brought to the attention of the synod fathers. All the above require a specific pastoral approach. The imposition of a Western extractive model affects families and forces young people to move to cities. The Church must promote an urban pastoral care.
Indian theology and local traditions.
The debate focused on the value of Indian theology, with reference to the Pope’s appeal to shape a Church with an indigenous face, capable of re-reading the essential elements of the Catholic universe in an indigenous key. Also underlined is the value of traditional medicine, a valid alternative to Western medicine. Proposal to create more natural reserves to preserve both biodiversity and the plurality of Amazonian cultures.
A special prayer was recited by the Congregation this morning, opened as usual by the recitation of Terce, the Third Hour, for the difficult situation in Ecuador