Responding to questions from journalists, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, stated the following: “As already stated on other occasions, the words that Dr. Eugenio Scalfari attributes in quotation marks to the Holy Father during talks with him cannot be considered as a faithful account of what was actually said, but rather represent a personal and free interpretation of this who listened, as appears completely evident from what is written today regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ ”.

Click here to read the story:

I am one of many who ask how many times Scalfari and Pope Francis will be allowed to meet alone?! Every single time they have met – no notes are taken, no recorders used, no other people present, etc. – the Vatican has had to clarify something that Pope Francis allegedly told Scalfari!

I have lost track now of the times they have met over the years, probably 5 or 6 or so and some we may not even known about . What is sad for me is that so often people believe what they read by or about Scalfari, his quotes about the Pope, etc. and they might miss the Vatican’s denial. Others do see the Vatican statement but wonder if it is not just about protecting the Pope.


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


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.


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



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 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.”


Because of a myriad of appointments throughout the day, I have had very little time to dedicate to the entire proceedings and speeches of the first morning of the Pan Amazon synod meetings. To quote Blaise Pascal: Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte (I made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter). That is, no time for editing, commentary or my own summary today.

I do have many questions as well as observations after an initial reading but first want to organize those thoughts and refine them and then bring them to you. I now offer the full speech by Cardinal Hummes and you can digest that and, if you wish, comment on my FB page.


Following is the English translation of the Presentation by Amazon Synod Relator General, Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Brazil) at this morning’s First General Congregation. He spoke in Portuguese and his talk of 3,400 words was translated into Italian, English and Spanish:

The subject of the Synod we are inaugurating is, “Amazonia: New Pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology.” The theme addressed follows the broad pastoral guidelines characteristic of Pope Francis for creating new pathways. From the very beginning of his papal ministry, Pope Francis has emphasised the Church’s need to move forward. The Church cannot remain inactive within her own closed circle, focused on herself, surrounded by protective walls and even less can she look nostalgically to the past. The Church needs to throw open her doors, knock down the walls surrounding her and build bridges, going out into the world and setting out on the path of history. In these times of momentous changes, the Church must always walk next to everyone and especially those living on the margins of humankind; an “outgoing” Church. Why outgoing? So as to turn on the lights and warm the hearts of those who help people, communities, countries and all humankind to discover the meaning of life and of history. These lights are above all the announcement of the person of Jesus Christ, dead and risen, and of His Kingdom, as is the practice of mercy as well as charity and solidarity above all towards the poor, those who suffer, the forgotten and the marginalised in today’s world such as migrants and indigenous peoples.

It is moving forward that makes the Church loyal to its true tradition. Traditionalism, which remains linked to the past, is one thing, but true tradition, which is the Church’s living history, is something else through which every generation, accepting what has been handed down by previous generations, such as understanding and experiencing faith in Jesus Christ, enriches this tradition in current times with their own experience and understanding of faith in Jesus Christ.

The light means announcing Jesus Christ and untiringly practising mercy in the Church’s living tradition. It means showing the path to be followed in moving forwards inclusively in a way that invites, welcomes and encourages everyone, with no exceptions, as friends and siblings, respecting the differences between us.

“New pathways.” One must not fear what is new. In his 2013 Pentecost homily, Pope Francis already expressed the idea that, “Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences… (…) We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness – God always brings newness -, and demands our complete trust.” In the Evangelii Gaudium (no. 11), the Pope portrays Jesus Christ as “eternal newness”. He is always new, He is always the same newness, “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13, 8) He is what is new. That is why the Church prays using the words, “Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” So we must not fear newness, we must not fear Christ, the new. This Synod is in search of new pathways.

In his speech to Brazilian bishops during the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, speaking of the Amazon as “a litmus test for Church and society in Brazil,” the Pope proposed that the “the Church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh [in Amazonia], consolidating the results achieved in the area of training a native clergy and providing priests suited to local conditions and committed to consolidating, as it were, the Church’s Amazonian face.” Pope Francis added, “In this, please, I ask you, be courageous, and have parrhesia! In the “porteño” language [of Buenos Aires], be fearless.” This inevitably returns us to the history of the Church in that region. Ever since the very beginning of the colonisation of Amazonia, Catholic missionaries were there both to provide assistance to the colonisers and to evangelise the indigenous peoples. This marked the beginning of the Church’s evangelising mission in the region. Amidst light and shadow – certainly more lights than shadows – later generations of missionaries of both genders, above all religious Orders and Congregations, but also diocesan priests and lay people– in particular women – tried to bring Jesus Christ to local people and establish Catholic communities. In this synod, it is right to remember, acknowledge and exalt the heroic history, and often martyrdom, of all the missionaries of the past as well as those who are today in Pan-Amazonia. In addition to missionaries, there have also always been many lay and indigenous leaders who provided heroic testimony and were often killed, as still happens today. Furthermore, one cannot forget that the missionary Church of Amazonia distinguished itself – and still does today – for the great and essential services provided to local populations in terms of schools, health care, the fight against poverty and human rights violations. On the other hand, the history of the Church in Pan-Amazonia shows us that there has always been a great lack of material resources and not enough missionaries for the full development of a community with, in particular, an almost total absence of the Eucharist and other sacraments essential for daily Christian life.

The Amazonian aspect of the local Church must be consolidated, as Pope Francis said in the aforementioned speech made to Brazilian Bishops and, as exhorted by His Holiness in Puerto Maldonado (19.01.2018), so must its indigenous aspect within indigenous communities. Ever since the Synod was announced, the Pope has made it clear that the Church’s relationship with indigenous people and the Amazon Forest is to be one of its central subjects. In announcing the Synod and in explaining its objectives, Francis said, “The main purpose of this convocation is to identify new paths for the evangelization of this segment of the People of God, especially the indigenous peoples, often forgotten and without the prospect of a peaceful future, also due to the crisis of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of paramount importance for our planet” (Vatican City, 15.10.17). In Puerto Maldonado, he also told the indigenous people, “I wanted to come to visit you and listen to you, so that we can stand together, in the heart of the Church, and share your challenges and reaffirm with you a heartfelt option for the defence of life, the defence of the earth and the defence of cultures.” In the synodal consultation stages, the indigenous people made manifest in various ways that they want the Church’s support in defending and upholding their rights as well as in the creation of their future. They ask that the Church be a constant ally. This is because humankind has a great debt towards the indigenous peoples on the planet’s various continents and therefore also in Amazonia. It is necessary that the right to be the leading players in their own history be returned and guaranteed to indigenous populations, as the subjects and not objects of the spirit or the victims of anyone’s colonialism. Their cultures, languages, history, identity and spirituality are humanity’s wealth and must be respected and preserved as well as included in global culture.

The Church’s mission today in Amazonia is the Synod’s central issue. This is a Synod of the Church for the Church. Not an inward looking Church, but one integrated in the history and the reality of the territory – in this case Amazonia –, attentive to calls for help and the populations’ aspirations and the “common home” [the creation]. A Church open to dialogue, especially interreligious and intercultural dialogue. A Church that is welcoming and wanting to share a synodal path with other churches, religions, sciences, governments, institutions, peoples, communities and persons. A Church respecting differences, with the intention of defending and promoting life for the populations in the area, above all those who originated there, while preserving biodiversity in the Amazon region. An updated Church, “simper reformanda”, according to the Evangelii Gaudium; an outgoing missionary Church, explicitly announcing Jesus Christ, welcoming and communicative, merciful, poor, for the poor and with the poor. Therefore a Church with a preferential, encultured, inter-cultural and increasingly more synodal attention paid to the poor. A Marian Church, fuelled by devotion for the Most Holy Virgin Mary, according to many local titles, especially that of Maria de Nazaré, whose festivity brings together millions of pilgrims and faithful every year in Belém do Pará.

Inculturation of the Christian faith in the various different cultures is necessary. As St. John Paul II says about the missionary mandate of the Christian faith in the various different cultures, “The need for such involvement has marked the Church’s pilgrimage throughout her history, but today it is particularly urgent.” (Redemptoris Missio, 52). Together with inculturation, the evangelisation of the peoples of the Amazon also requires paying particular attention to inter-culturality, because it is there that cultures are many and diversified, although they continue to share a number of common roots. The task of inculturation and inter-culturality lies above all in the liturgy, in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, in popular piety, in catechesis, in daily coexistence in a dialogue with autochthon peoples in social and charitable works, in consecrated life and urban pastoral care.

One cannot however forget that nowadays and already for a very long time, the Church in Amazonia has suffered a great lack of the resources needed for its mission and that it needs to increase its communications potential (radio and television).

Within this broad context, the Church and integral ecology are united in this region. Ours is a Church that is aware that its religious mission, in keeping with its faith in Jesus Christ, inevitably includes “care of the common home”. This bond also proves that the cries of the land and those of the poor in this region are one and the same. Life in Amazonia has perhaps never before been so threatened “by environmental destruction and exploitation and by the systematic violation of the basic human rights of the Amazon population. In particular, the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples, such as the right to territory, to self-determination, to the demarcation of territories, and to prior consultation and consent.” (IL,14). According to synodal consultations with local populations, the threat to life in Amazonia derives from the financial and political interests of dominant sectors in today’s society, in particular those of companies that extract riches below the ground in a predatory and irresponsible manner [legally or illegally] also altering biodiversity. This often takes place in collusion or with the compliance of local and national governments and at times also with the consent of some local authorities.

Numerous consultations held throughout the Amazon show that the communities consider that life in the Amazon is especially threatened by: (a) criminalization and assassination of leaders and defenders of the territory; (b) appropriation and privatization of natural goods such as water itself; (c) both legal logging concessions and illegal logging; (d) predatory hunting and fishing, mainly in rivers; (e) mega-projects: hydroelectric and forest concessions, logging for monoculture production, construction of roads and railways, or mining and oil projects; (f) pollution caused by the entire extractive industry that causes problems and diseases, especially among children and young people; (g) drug trafficking; (h) the resulting social problems associated with these threats such as alcoholism, violence against women, sex work, human trafficking, loss of original culture and identity (language, spiritual practices and customs), and all conditions of poverty to which the peoples of the Amazon are condemned (IL,15).

Integral ecology teaches us that everything is connected, human beings and nature. All living beings on the planet are children of the earth. The human body is made of the “dust of the ground”, into which God “breathed” the spirit of life as the Bible says (cf. Gen 2,7). Consequently, all damage done to the earth damages human beings and all the other living creatures on the earth. This proves that one cannot address ecology, economy, culture and other issues separately. In the Laudato si’ it is stated that they must be considered as one; an environmental, economic, social and cultural ecology (cf. LS, cap. IV).

The Son of God too became a man and his human body comes from the earth. In this body, Jesus died for us on the Cross to overcome evil and death, he rose again among the dead and now sits to the right of God the Father in eternal and immortal glory. The Apostle Paul writes, “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him (…) whether those on earth or those in heaven.”(Col. 1,19-20). In Laudato si’ we read that, “This leads us to direct our gaze to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that “God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor.15:28). Thus, “the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end” (LS, 100). It is thus that God has definitively connected Himself to His entire creation. This mystery is accomplished in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This Synod is held within the context of a serious and urgent climatic and ecological crisis, which involves our entire planet. The planet’s global warming caused by the greenhouse effect has resulted in an unprecedented, serious and pressing climatic imbalance as stated in the Laudato si’ and the Paris COP21, where practically all the countries in the world signed the Agreement on climate that for the moment has remained almost unimplemented in spite of its urgency. At the same time, the planet is experiencing galloping devastation, depredation and degradation of the earth’s resources, all fostered by a globalised, predatory and devastating technocratic paradigm reported by Laudato si’. The earth cannot take this anymore

The immense urban reality of Amazonia, partly the result of internal migrations, and the presence of the Church in cities are another central theme in this Synod, because in cities the Church too must develop and consolidate its Amazonian face. It cannot be a reproduction of the urban Church in other regions. The Church’s mission in Amazonia includes the care and defence of the Amazon Forest and its people: indigenous, caboclos, ribeirinhos, quilombolas, poor of all species, small farmers, fishermen, seringueiros, coconut splitters and others, depending on the region. This mission will certainly not be a burden, but a joy such as only the Gospel can offer. Nowadays migrations are a global phenomenon, marking current times in Pan-Amazonia, amidst those of Haitians in the past and Venezuelans today, but, above all, those of the indigenous people and others groups of the poor in the region’s interior. The Church has made a great effort to welcome them. One must, however, highlight the migrations of indigenous people to the cities in their thousands. They need effective and compassionate attention so as not to culturally and humanly succumb in cities, faced with extreme poverty, abandonment, rejection, disdain and denial, thereby experiencing a desperate internal void. “Indigenous individuals in the city are migrants, landless human beings, survivors of a historic battle for the demarcation of their land, with their cultural identity in crisis.” (IL, 132). For many reasons they are obliged to be invisible. One must listen to the often silent but no less real and bitter calls for help of urban indigenous people. The Church in the cities faces all the social and religious problems of its poorest peripheries and of the evangelisation of all sectors of the urban population.

Another issue consists in the lack of priests at the service of local communities in the area, with a consequent lack of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, as well as other sacraments. There is a lack of appointed priests and this means pastoral care consisting of occasional instead of adequate daily pastoral care. The Church lives on the Eucharist and the Eucharist is the foundation of the Church (St. John Paul II). Participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, is essential for the full and progressive development of Christian communities and a true experience of the Word of God in people’s lives. It will be necessary to define new paths for the future. During the consultation stages, indigenous communities, faced with the urgent need experienced by most of the Catholic communities in Amazonia, requested that the path be opened for the ordination of married men resident in their communities, albeit confirming the great importance of the charisma of celibacy in the Church. At the same time, faced with a great number of women who nowadays lead communities in Amazonia, there is a request that this service be acknowledged and there be an attempt to consolidate it with a suitable ministry for them.

Another important chapter concerns water, “Clean drinking water is an issue of primary importance. It is indispensable for human life and to sustain terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems.” (LS 28). The lack of safe drinking water is a growing threat all over the planet. “The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing. (…). All people have a right to safe drinking water. This is a basic human right and a central issue in today’s world,” said Pope Francis in a speech made on February 24th, 2017. The Amazon is one of the planet’s largest reserves of freshwater. “The Amazon River basin and the surrounding tropical forests nourish the soil and regulate, through the recycling of moisture, the cycles of water, energy and carbon at the planetary level. The Amazon River alone sends 15% of the total fresh water of the planet every year into the Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon is essential for the distribution of rainfall in other distant regions of South America and contributes to the great movements of air around the planet. Moreover, it nurtures the nature, life and cultures of thousands of indigenous, peasant, Afro-descendant, river and urban communities.(…). Its generous natural abundance of water, heat and humidity means that the ecosystems of the Amazon host around 10% to 15% of the terrestrial biodiversity.”(IL,9). The role played by the forest and the indigenous populations also matters. In Amazonia the forest effectively takes care of the water and the water takes care of the forest, as together they produce biodiversity and the indigenous people have been the guardians of this system for millennia. It is for this reason that the Church also feels it is called upon to look after the water of our “shared home”, threatened mainly in Amazonia by global warming, deforestation and the contamination caused by mining and pesticides.

In conclusion, to comply with the working dynamics of this synodal assembly, I wish to suggest a number of core issues: a) The outgoing Church and its new pathways in Amazonia; b) The Church’s Amazonian face: inculturation and inter-culturality in a missionary-ecclesial context; c)Ministries in the Church in Amazonia: presbyterate, deaconate, ministries and the role played by women; d) The work done by the Church in looking after our “shared home”; listening to the earth and to the poor; integral environmental, economic, social and cultural ecology; e) The Amazonian Church in the urban reality; f) The issues concerning water; g) others.

I would like to conclude by inviting everyone to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit during these days of the Synod. Allow yourselves to be enveloped by the cloak of the Mother of God, Queen of Amazonia. We must not allow ourselves to be overcome by self-referentiality, but by mercy when faced with the pain expressed by the poor and the earth. We will need to pray a great deal, to meditate and discern a real practice of ecclesial communion and a synodal spirit. This Synod is like a table that God has prepared for His poor and He is asking us to serve at that table.


If you want short but interesting reads about what is going on at the Pontifical Council for Culture, the council sends out periodic emails with links to news about their latest events, gatherings, visitors, etc. To learn more, you may access information and stories at the following links: English and Spanish. As the most recent email from the council said: “We hope it interests you and gives you inspiration for your own work promoting dialogue with the cultures of our time!”


My special guest this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Sister Birgit Dechant, FSO of the International Center of Newman Friends in Rome – an expert on all things Cardinal John Henry Newman who becomes a saint of the Universal Church in Rome on October 13, 2019. We look at so many aspects of Newman’s life this weekend and next weekend – when he will be canonized in Rome – when Sister returns to Vatican Insider and we explore more of his work, writings, influence as an Anglican and then as a Catholic, his legacy and the miracle that led to has canonization and much more!

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During a highly symbolic tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Friday, Pope Francis placed the upcoming Synod for the Amazon under the protection of Saint Francis of Assisi.
By Vatican News

The phrase “Everything is connected” recurs often in Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Sì.

During a unique ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Friday, signs, symbols and songs ensured that everything really was “connected.”

Saint Francis and ecology
Starting with the timing: October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, and closes the “Season of Creation” that began on September 1. This year also marks 40 years since Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed St. Francis the Patron Saint “of those who promote ecology.” And, in just two days, the Synod for the Amazon will open, the first Synod ever to address the issue of integral ecology.

Organizers and participants
Members of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement organized the event, while various religious congregations and representatives of the indigenous people of the Amazon Region played important roles in providing color and creativity.

Signs and symbols
The ceremony culminated with the planting of a holm oak from Assisi. The name of the tree is believed to come from the old Anglo-Saxon word for “holly” – “holy.”

Even the soil in which the tree was planted was steeped in significance. There was soil from the Amazon, celebrating the wealth of the bioregion’s cultures and traditions; earth from India, representing countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis, where droughts and floods leave millions devastated; soil representing refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes because of war, poverty, and ecological devastation. There was earth from places of human trafficking, and from sustainable development projects around the world. And there was more soil from the Amazon, earth bathed in the blood of those who have died fighting against its destruction.

The Canticle of the Creatures
But the tree also stands in soil coming from the places where Saint Francis walked in and around Assisi: a place of encounter with the Creator, where the Saint composed the first part of his “Canticle of the Creatures.” Written in the 13th Century, it is believed to be one of the first works of literature in the Italian language. A musical version of this prayer-poem accompanied the tree planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens.

Celebrating the Season of Creation
The prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson, was present at the ceremony and described how the “Season of Creation” is “not only a time for prophetic gestures…but a time for wisdom, a season to respond to the ecological crisis.” Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, said the cardinal, suggests “a time of change: humanity’s turning a new leaf to save the planet.”

(JFL: Pope Francis led the gathering in praying the Our Father, and did not recite his prepared remarks. Click here and scroll down to watch video of Vatican Garden tree-planting ceremony with Pope Framcis:


Pope Francis Friday afternoon presided over Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica and conferred Episcopal ordination on Fr. Michael Czerny SJ, and Msgrs. Antoine Camilleri, Paolo Rudelli and Paolo Borgia.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis began by reflecting on the ecclesial responsibilities to which the new Bishops are called. These responsibilities include perpetuating the Apostolic Ministry of the first Apostles from generation to generation.

Unbroken succession
“The Twelve gathered together collaborators”, said the Pope, and by the laying on of hands, they “transmitted to them the gift of the Spirit received from Christ”. Through the unbroken succession of Bishops in the living tradition of the Church, continued Pope Francis, “this primary ministry has been preserved and the work of the Saviour continues and develops to our times”.

It is Christ
It is Christ, said the Pope, “who in the ministry of the Bishop, continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and to sanctify believers through the sacraments of faith”. It is Christ, he continued, “Who in the wisdom and prudence of the Bishop, guides the People of God on their earthly pilgrimage to eternal happiness”.

Chosen by the Lord
Addressing the new Bishops directly, the Pope told them they are “chosen by the Lord”. “Episcopate”, he said, “is the name of a service, not of an honour”. The Bishop is more responsible for service than for domination.

Pope Francis also told them to announce the Word on every opportune and inopportune occasion: “admonish, reprove, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine”, he said.

Faithful custodians
The Pope continued his advice to the new Bishops, asking them to be “faithful custodians and dispensers of the mysteries of Christ”, always following the example of the Good Shepherd, “who knows His sheep, is known by them and does not hesitate to give His life for them”.

Love the defenseless
Pope Francis said the Bishops need to love all those God entrusts to them, especially their priests and deacons but also “the poor, the defenseless and all those in need of hospitality and help”.

Watch over the flock
In conclusion, the Pope said they should watch over the whole flock with love. Watch, he said, “in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, by whom you are made teachers, priests and pastors; in the name of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the Church and who, by His power, sustains our weakness”.



And it’s only just begun!

Last Sunday Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

On Monday the Vatican announced a papal document by which Pope Francis instituted the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as Sunday of the Word of God.

On Tuesday, October 1, the Holy Father celebrated Vespers at six in the evening in St. Peter’s to open the extraordinary missionary month of October.

Also Tuesday: Vatican prosecutors seized documents and electronic devices in a raid at the offices of the general affairs section of the Secretariat of State in connection with an investigation following complaints brought in early summer by the Institute for Religious Works (known as the Vatican Bank) and the office of the Auditor General.

Today, Wednesday was the general audience in Saint Peter Square at which Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, focusing, this week on the episode of the deacon Philip converting the Ethiopian. (see below).

Also Wednesday: It was announced that Pope Francis has named Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, Malta as pro-secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. He will become secretary general when the mandate of the current secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, ends. Bishop Grech will act as apostolic administrator of Gozo until a new bishop is named.

Tomorrow, Thursday 34 young men, seminarians at the Pontifical North American College, will be ordained to the diaconate in a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica

On Friday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will confer Episcopal ordination on three priests whom he had earlier appointed as apostolic nuncios or ambassadors. They will have the rank of archbishop.

Saturday, the College of Cardinals will receive 13 new members as Pope Francis holds another consistory. Ten of the 13 are under the age of 80 and will be eligible to vote in a conclave until they reach 80.

Sunday, The Holy Father will preside Mass in St. Peter’s Square to open the October 6 to 27 synod on the Amazon.

The above schedule does not include all the press conferences and other events related to the consistory for new cardinals, the synod for the Amazon and the October 13th canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of 5 to be canonized that day. So yes, what a week!


Continuing his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles at Wednesday’s General Audience this week, Pope Francis explains on how the Holy Spirit leads the deacon Philip to help the senior official of the Queen of Ethiopia to embrace Christ.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Pope Francis began his catechesis, explaining how after the persecution of Christians following the martyrdom of Stephen, the spread of the Gospel appeared to suffer a setback. As a result, many Christians dispersed elsewhere.

But persecution that appears to be the hallmark of Christ’s disciples, the Pope explained, “instead of extinguishing the fire of evangelization, feeds it even more”.

The deacon Philip, who was proclaiming the Gospel along with healing and casting out evil spirits in Samaria, is impelled by the Holy Spirit to meet a stranger with a heart open to God. With enthusiasm, he set off on a deserted and dangerous road to meet a senior official of the Queen of Ethiopia, the administrator of her treasures. The Jewish proselyte, a eunuch, was travelling home after worshipping in Jerusalem. In his carriage, he was reading a passage from the Prophet Isaiah on the “servant of the Lord”, but understood nothing.

Humility and Word of God
Philip approached the carriage and asked him if he understood the passage. The Ethiopian said he could not unless someone guided him. The Pope noted that this powerful man recognized the need to be guided in order to understand the Word of God.

“He was the great banker, he was the minister of economy, he had all the power of money,” the Pope noted, “but he knew that without the explanation he could not understand. He was humble.”

Word of God transforms life
Drawing a lesson from this conversation, the Holy Father said, “it is not enough to read Scripture, it is necessary to understand its meaning, to find the “juice” going beyond the “rind”, to draw the Spirit that animates the letter.”

In this regard, he recalled Pope Benedict XVI on exegesis, who said that the true reading of Sacred Scripture is not just a literary phenomenon, it is the movement of one’s existence. Pope Francis explained that entering the Word of God means to be willing to go beyond one’s own limits to encounter God and to conform oneself to Christ who is the living Word of the Father.

In fact, the Holy Father continued, Philip helped the Ethiopian understand that the “meek suffering servant” he was reading about was none other than Christ whom the whole Church was proclaiming. The Ethiopian finally recognized Christ and asked for Baptism and professed his faith in the Lord Jesus.

Holy Spirit – the protagonist of evangelization
Pope Francis said that it is the Holy Spirit who pushed Philip into the desert to meet this man, stressing, “The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of evangelization”. “If there is no Holy Spirit there is no evangelization,” he said, adding without Him it can be proselytism, advertising, anything… In evangelization, the Holy Spirit makes you leave, pushing you to proclaim with testimony, even with martyrdom and words.”



At 6.00 pm this evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will preside at Vespers for the beginning of the missionary month that is traditionally October. The celebration will be introduced by a missionary Vigil and listening to testimonies from the missionary world starting at 5.15 pm.

Starting today, the Church this month celebrates an “Extraordinary Missionary Month,” that was announced by the Pope himself at the Angelus of October 22, 2017 with these words: “It is my intention to promote an Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019, in order to nourish the ardor of the evangelizing activity of the Church ad gentes. On the day of the liturgical memorial of St. John Paul II, the missionary Pope, we entrust to his intercession the mission of the Church in the world.”


Pope Francis released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for October, which is that the breath of the Holy Spirit engender a new missionary spring in the Church.


In his prayer intention for the month of October 2019, Pope Francis invites us to pray that, “politicians, scientists and economists work together to protect the world’s seas and oceans.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention follows:

Today, a new impulse to the Church’s missionary activity is needed to face the challenge of proclaiming Jesus and his death and resurrection. Reaching the peripheries – the human, cultural, and religious settings still foreign to the Gospel: this is what we call the “missio ad gentes”. We must also remember that the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer. In this Extraordinary Missionary Month, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may engender a new missionary “spring” for all those baptized and sent by Christ’s Church,

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.