The following is my translation of the Vaticannews-provided summary of yesterday afternoon’s 6th General Congregation of the Pan Amazon synod.

I saw nothing about infanticide in the Vatican media reports and yet it has made a splash, mostly in the daily press briefings. Today I posted this in Twitter and FB: I hope we hear more in coming days about infanticide because it has not been a big part of reflections so far. I do not remember it being mentioned in the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris but will check. Its omission would be grave.

I have updated that with a report on the question about infanticide asked at today’s press briefing.

Vatican News – Vatican City

#SinodoAmazonico. (Topics) The drama of drug trafficking and the call for ecological conversion. In the presence of the Pope, the 6th General Congregation of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region was held Wednesday afternoon, October 9. 180 Synod Fathers present.

The drama of drug trafficking and its consequences.
This is one of the interventions that resonated this afternoon in the Synod Hall during the 6th General Congregation. In some areas that make up the Pan-amazon region, the cultivation of coca has grown from 12,000 to 23,000 hectares with devastating effects due to the increase in crime and the disruption of the natural balance of the territory, increasingly desertified. Even the construction of hydroelectric power plants, which involves deforestation of large environmental reserves rich in biodiversity, as well as authorized fires that destroy millions of hectares of land, have a very strong impact on the environment of some regions, altering the ecosystem. For this reason, a call to ecological conversion is necessary. Tthe Church – it is said in the synod – is a prophetic voice for the theme of integral ecology to enter the agenda of international organizations.

Inculturation and evangelization.
In the other interventions of the Synod Fathers, we return to reflect on the balance between inculturation and evangelization and are invited to look at the example of Jesus, so eloquent. The incarnation itself, in fact, is the greatest sign of inculturation, because the Word of God assumed human nature to make himself visible in his love. And this is the task of the Church, called to incarnate in the concrete life of people, as the missionaries in the Amazon did.

Missionary synodality.
In one particular speech, the idea is expressed that the Amazon could become a permanent laboratory of missionary synodality, both for the good of the peoples living in the region, and for the good of the Church. Also underlined was the importance of inter-culturality and the enhancement of the original cultures and populations, whose worldview helps in the care of the common home.

The difficulty of vocation and the way of the ‘viri probati.’
Still on the subject of evangelization, we speak of the difficulty of priestly and religious vocations and we pause on the path of the ‘viri probati’: One intervention said this would weaken the thrust of priests to go out from one continent to another and even one diocese to another. The priest is, in fact, not “of the community,” but “of the Church” and, as such, can be “for any community.” Another intervention emphasized that it is not so much ministers of the sacred who are needed but deacons of the faith. The need for more and better formation for priests was then reaffirmed, as was a call for an evaluation (appreciation), distant from clericalism, of the responsibilities of the laity.

Popular piety.
A further intervention focused on the theme of popular piety, an aspect of evangelization before which one cannot remain indifferent: it is a fundamental characteristic of the peoples of the Amazon and it is therefore necessary to take care of them as a treasure in which Jesus Christ shines. Hence the idea that manifestations of popular piety are increasingly accompanied, promoted and valued by the Church

The theology of creation.
The gaze of the Synod Hall expands, moreover, to the theology of creation, in which resides the Word of God to humanity. Hence, the reflection of the Fathers on the importance of a greater dialogue between this theology and the positive sciences, since forgetting creation would mean forgetting the Creator himself. Space is also given to the defense of the rights of the original peoples of the Amazon: dialogue with them, says synod participants, is important and helps to enhance them as worthy interlocutors, endowed with the ability to self-determination. Particular attention should also be paid to pastoral care for indigenous youth, divided as they are between traditional and western knowledge.

The role of women in the Church and in society.
The 6th Congregation also saw some of the listeners, fraternal delegates and special guests take the floor. In particular, the role of women and enhancing their leadership within the family, society and the Church was stressed. Participants said a woman is the guardian of life, an evangelizer, an artisan of hope, the gentle breeze of God, the maternal and merciful face of the Church. It is important, therefore, to recognize the style of the proclamation of the Gospel carried out by Amazonian women, often silent, but very participatory in society. And it was again stated that it is necessary to strengthen a synodality of genders in the Church.

Inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue.
The Synod Hall also reflects on the importance of interreligious dialogue, one that focuses on trust, on seeing differences as an opportunity, far from religious colonization and close to listening and awareness of otherness. We then look at ecumenical dialogue, highlighting the importance of a common path also for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, often victims of violence, and of Amazonian territories destroyed by predatory mining methods or poisonous crops. A common gospel announcement can be a way to combat these horrendous crimes. Christians, it was added,, cannot remain silent in the face of the violence and injustices suffered by the Amazon and its peoples. announcing the love of God in the most remote corners of the region means denouncing all forms of oppression on the beauty of Creation.

The Amazon, a concrete place that concerns everyone.
The Amazon is a concrete place in which many global challenges of our time are manifested, challenges that affect everyone. The sufferings of the Amazonian peoples, in fact, derive from an “imperial” lifestyle, in which life is considered as simple merchandise and inequalities end up being increasingly strengthened. Instead, indigenous peoples can help (us) to understand the interconnectedness of things: worldwide cooperation is possible and urgent.

The Pope’s example.
At the beginning of the free (unscripted) speeches, the Pope also wanted to contribute to the re-reading of the path traveled so far, emphasizing what struck him more as he listened. Francis, who had opened the works by praying for the “Jewish brothers” on the day of Yom Kippur, at the end of the Congregation recalled in prayer the victims of the attack on the synagogue in Halle, Germany.



The news segment this week of Vatican Insider will be unusually brief because the special I have prepared in what is normally the interview segment is unusually long. I am taking a look at the four-day meeting in the Vatican that began on Thursday February 21 and is dealing with the scandal of clerical sex abuse, in particular focussing on the protection of minors. I look at the background, the composition of the organizing committee, the speakers and topics scheduled for each day, the Holy Father’s reason for choosing to have such an event and a look at what the Church, the Pope, and the summit attendees hope to achieve.

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Accountability was the main theme of the second day of the protecting minors conference. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai) was the first to speak in the morning. His talk was entitled “Accountability in a Collegial and Synodal Church.”

He began by saying, “Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the subsequent failure to address it in an open, accountable, and effective way has caused a multifaceted crisis that has gripped and wounded the Church, not to speak of those who have been abused. Although the experience of abuse seems dramatically present in certain parts of the world, it is not a limited phenomenon. Indeed, the entire Church must take an honest look, undertake rigorous discernment, and then act decisively to prevent abuse from occurring in the future and to do whatever possible to foster healing for victims.
Finally, he said, we must “be willing to pay the price of following God’s will in uncertain and painful circumstances.”

The cardinal went on: “No bishop should say to himself, “I face these problems and challenges alone.” Because we belong to the college of bishops in union with the Holy Father, we all share accountability and responsibility. Collegiality is an essential context for addressing wounds of abuse inflicted on victims and on the Church at large. We bishops need to return to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council often, in order to find ourselves in the larger mission and ministry of the Church.”

He asked for the clarification of several points in order to make progress:

· For me, this raises the question: do we really engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops or priests when we notice problematic behaviour in them? We should cultivate a culture of correctio fraterna, which enables this without offending each other, and at the same time recognise criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfil our tasks.
· Closely related to this point is willingness to personally admit mistakes to each other, and to ask for help, without feeling the need to maintain the pretence of own perfection
· For a bishop, the relationship with the Holy Father is of constitutive significance. Every bishop is obliged to directly obey and follow the Holy Father. We should ask ourselves honestly, whether on this basis we don’t sometimes think that our relationship with the other bishops is not so important, especially if the brothers have a different opinion, and/or if they feel the need to correct us.
· If in such contexts we ourselves always refer back to Rome, we shouldn’t wonder if a certain Roman centralism does not sufficiently take into account the diversity in our brotherhood, and our local church competencies and our skills as responsible shepherds of our local churches are not appropriately used, and thereby the practically lived collegiality suffers.

Under what he called “The Challenge of sexual abuse in the Church,“ Cardinal Gracias spoke of justice and healing and said, relative to healing: “For effective healing to happen, there must be clear, transparent, and consistent communication from a collegial Church to victims, members of the Church, and society at large. In that communication, the Church offers several messages.”

Those messages are, he explained, “a respectful outreach and an honest acknowledgement of their pain and hurt,” “an offer to heal,” “to identify and implement measures to protect young and vulnerable people from future abuse,” and fourthly, “to society at large.”

On the fourth point he said: “Our Holy Father has wisely and correctly said that abuse is a human problem. It is not, of course, limited to the Church. In fact, it is a pervasive and sad reality across all sectors of life. Out of this particularly challenging moment in the life of the Church, we – again in a collegial context -can draw on and develop resources which can be of great service to a larger world. The grace of this moment can actually be our ability to serve a great need in the world from our experience in the Church.”

For Cardinal Gracias’ full address


Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, was the second speaker of the second day of the protection of minors meeting.

He opened his talk by saying, “From what we just heard from Cardinal Gracias, we are to understand our gathering in these days as an exercise in collegiality. We are here, as the universal episcopate in affective and substantive union with the successor of Peter, to discern through spirited dialogue where our ministry as successors of the apostles calls us to confront effectively the scandal of clergy sexual abuse that has wounded so many little ones.

“While we share a unique responsibility in this regard as the college of bishops, it is also imperative that we consider the challenge we face in the light of synodality, especially as we explore with the entire Church the structural, legal and institutional aspects of accountability.”

The cardinal explained that, “For a Church seeking to be a loving mother in the face of clergy sexual abuse, four orientations, rooted in synodality, must shape every structural, legal and institutional reform designed to meet the enormous challenge which the reality of sexual abuse by clergy represents at this moment.”

Those orientations are: radical listening, lay witness, collegiality and accountability.

Cardinal Cupich then outlined what he called a framework for institutional and legal structured for accountability, stating, “The task before us is to focus these principles upon the design of specific institutional and legal structures for the purpose of creating genuine accountability in cases related to the misconduct of bishops and religious superiors, and their mishandling of cases of child abuse.”

The archbishop of Chicago mentioned, “We already, of course, have a guide in the Apostolic Letter Come una madre amorevole, which sets forth procedures that address, among other things, bishops who mishandle abuse cases.”

Looking at the task ahead for the Church and the world’s bishops, the cardinal grouped his remarks under three headings: 1. Setting Standards for Investigation of Bishops, 2. Reporting Allegations and 3. Concrete Procedural Steps.

At this point he made references to mechanisms already in place for reporting allegations of abuse or mishandling of abuse against a bishop, explaining the path normally taken for such reports.

Cardinal Cupich then listed 12 principles that he said should find their way into any proposed legislation in this area.

In conclusion, he said: “We must move to establish robust laws and structures regarding the accountability of bishops precisely to supply with a new soul the institutional reality of the Church’s discipline on sexual abuse.”

For Cardinal Cupich’s full presentation


The first woman to give an address to the Meeting for the Protection of Minors, Dr. Linda Ghisoni talked about the importance of all aspects of the Church working together to confront the worldwide crisis of the sexual abuse of children. She is the Undersecretary for the Laity at the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

Speaking on the subject of accountability – the theme for the second day of the meeting for the protection of minors – Ghisoni highlighted the aspect of communion vis-a-vis accountability.

With respect to Religious Superiors and Bishops, she said it was important, “to foresee an ordinary procedure of verification that should not be misunderstood as a lack of trust towards the Superior or the Bishop. Rather to be considered as an aid that allows him to focus, first at himself and at the best moment, that is when all the elements are clear and concurrent, the reason for a certain action taken or omitted.

“To say that the Bishop must always give a report of his work to someone does not mean subjecting him to a control or putting him in a priori distrust, but engaging him in the dynamics of ecclesial communion where all the members act in a coordinated way, according to their own charisms and ministries.

“If a priest gives report to the community, to the priests and to his Bishop for his work, to whom does a bishop give a report? What accountability is he subject to?

“Identifying an objective method of accountability not only does not weaken his authority, but values him as shepherd of a flock, in his own function that is not separated from the people for whom he is called to give life. It may also happen, as for each of us, that from “giving report” springs awareness of an error, it becomes obvious that the path taken was wrong, perhaps because at that moment one thought – wrongly – of acting for the good. This will not constitute a judgment from which to defend oneself in order to recover credit, a stain on one’s own honourability, a threat to one’s own ordinary and immediate power.

“On the contrary, this will be the witness of a journey made together, which alone can find the discernment of truth, justice and charity. The logic of communion does not stand an accusation and a defence, but working together (“con-correre” precisely, only in communion) for the good of all. Accountability is therefore a form, today even more necessary, in this logic of communion.”