The second working day of the special Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region ended with the fourth General Congregation. The afternoon session was held in the presence of the Pope, with 182 synod fathers in attendance.
The systematic violation of the rights of the original peoples of the Amazon; and the risk to life throughout the entire region due to the wounding of its habitat, were at the centre of the reflections during the fourth congregation of the Synod of Bishops.
Reject indifference, accept responsibility
There was a strong appeal to the Church, with her moral and spiritual authority, to always protect life and denounce the many structures of death that threaten it. Individualism and indifference, which make us look at reality as spectators, was rejected; while ecological conversion, centred on responsibility and an integral ecology that prioritises human dignity, was promoted.
To the international community: confront human rights violations
Synod fathers called on the entire international community, which is so often indifferent to the shedding of innocent blood, to take seriously the environmental degradation of the Pan-Amazon region. From a synodal point of view – that is, seen as walking together, in friendship – the native populations, guardians of the natural reserves, evangelised by the Cross of Christ, must be considered allies in the fight against climate change. One intervention on this subject, from a fraternal delegate, emphasised the need to join forces and engage in dialogue, because, he said, friendship “respects, protects, and cares.” There was a call from many quarters for the Church to become an ally to grassroots social movements, to humbly listen to and welcome the Amazonian worldview, and to come to a deeper understanding of the meaning given by local cultures to ritual symbols – a meaning often different from the “Western” tradition.
Greater knowledge of “ecological sins”
Various interventions highlighted the need for sustainable development, which is socially just and inclusive, and combines scientific and traditional knowledge because the future of Amazonia “a lived reality and not a museum” “is in our hands.” A desire was also expressed for an “ecological conversion” that would allow people see the gravity of sins against the environment as sins against God, against our neighbour, and against future generations. This would imply a need to produce and spread more widely a theological literature that would include “ecological sins” alongside traditional sins.
Promoting a permanent indigenous diaconate
The reflection on ministries was enriched by the call to join forces in the formation of native missionaries, both lay and consecrated. Speakers identified a need for greater involvement of indigenous peoples in the Apostolate, beginning with the promotion of the permanent indigenous diaconate and a greater development of lay ministry, understood as an authentic manifestation of the Holy Spirit. There were also calls for greater involvement of women in the life of the Church.
Reflection on the priestly vocation
More than one intervention returned to the theme of the criteria for admission to the ordained ministry. Some urged prayers for vocations, calling for the Amazon to be transformed into a great spiritual sanctuary, from which would arise the prayer to the “Lord of the harvest,” that he might send new workers for the Gospel. Some speakers noted that an insufficient number of priests was a problem not only for Amazonia, but for the whole world. This led to calls for a serious examination of conscience about how the priestly vocation is lived today: a lack of holiness, in fact, is an obstacle to evangelical witness; and pastors who do not carry about them the scent of Christ end up driving away the sheep they are called to lead.
Young people and the odour of sanctity
On the contrary, several interventions highlighted the “luminous example” of martyrs of the Amazon, such as the Servants of God Father Rudolf Lunkenbein, S.D.B., and the layman Simão Cristino Koge Kudugodu, who were killed in Mato Grosso.
Speakers insisted that ecological conversion is, first and foremost, a conversion to holiness. Holiness, it was said, has an enormous power of attraction for young people, who require a renewed, dynamic, and attentive pastoral ministry. There was also a call to emphasise, even in the media, the good and holy lives of many priests, and not to focus solely on the scandals that unfortunately take up so much of the news. Similarly, many young Catholics offer positive examples to their peers, despite scourges like violence, drugs, prostitution, unemployment, and existential emptiness, which threaten the younger generations.
The afternoon session of the Synod also focused on the issue of immigration, which in the Amazon has many aspects, but which always requires coordinated ecclesial action based on reception/welcoming, protection, promotion, and immigration.
The memory of Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araújo
Pope Francis presided over the fourth General Congregation of the Synod, which opened with the prayer of the whole assembly for Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araújo, who died Tuesday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he had served as Metropolitan Archbishop from 1986-2004.
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.
The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region will be held in the Vatican from 6 to 27 October. For more information, click here.