Fr Antonio Spadaro, SJ: Key themes from the Synod

27 October 2019
Pope Francis speaks with Fr Antonio Spadaro, SJ, during a session of the Synod on the Amazon. Image: AFP or licensors/Vatican News.


In an interview with Vatican News, conducted via email, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Antonio Spadaro, S.J., highlights some of the key themes of the Synod for the Amazon, and discusses the need for an “indigenous” Church that is inculturated in native cultures.

VATICAN NEWS: What are some of the key themes considered at the Synod for the Amazon that have significance for the whole world?

FR ANTONIO SPADARO: The first key theme is Prophecy. Today the Church has an extraordinary need for prophecy in the face of the great challenges of the present, and to discern what future we want to build. So the first theme is the future of the Church, considering that the seeds of the future are now more in the peripheries than in the centre. The periphery speaks from the centre with the awareness that its experience is heard as a prophetic voice for the whole Church. And, precisely for this reason, it is judged by some as disturbing.

The second key theme is that the Synod points straight toward a land where gigantic contradictions of a political, economic, and ecological character are concentrated. A land which is not a national state, where a group of people is persecuted and threatened by many forms of violence. But also a group of people who are bearers of an enormous wealth of languages, cultures, rites, ancestral traditions.

The third key theme is Faith. The interventions in the Aula and in the small groups are painting a large fresco in which everything is interconnected: faith and history, hope and geography, charity and politics. Nothing is out of sight or beyond the commitment that comes from the impulse of faith. The theological themes in the Synod Hall are closely intertwined with the life of the people, geopolitical tensions, and care of the “common home”. And, precisely for this reason, it is judged by some as disturbing. This is why the pre-emptive attacks aimed at the Synod, dressed up as a fundamentalist religiosity, come from groups that protect political-economic interests. But this is also why from the mature experience of this Synod it will be possible to point out “new paths” for the universal Church.

The fourth key theme is the Church built upon the sacraments and ministries. The Synodal fathers are aware of how difficult it is for communities to regularly celebrate the Eucharist due to a lack of priests. There was clear talk of the right of the faithful not to remain in a “fast” from the Eucharist; and of the obligation of the pastors to provide bread. But a broader and more mature vision of the Church, finally alienated from clericalism, aware of the need to imagine new ecclesial ministries, for women as well, was also expressed. It is clear from the testimonies how much the Church of the Pan-Amazon region owes its life to women. It is also understood how the laity already actually have the task of teaching and supporting the ecclesial communities.

VN:There has been a great deal of discussion about inculturation. Especially in light of the long Jesuit tradition in this area, can you offer some thoughts as to how the Church can have an “Amazonian face”, while remaining faithful to the Catholic tradition?

AS: We must distinguish between a Church which considers indigenous people as an object of pastoral care, and an “indigenous” Church, which considers indigenous people as protagonists of its own experience of faith. We must definitely aim for an indigenous Church. In the context of their culture, identity, history, and spirituality, an indigenous Church can be born with its pastors and ordained ministers, always united in total communion with the universal Catholic Church, but inculturated in the indigenous cultures. The liturgy must respond to the culture of the people so that it may be the “culmen et fons”, the summit and also the source of the Christian life (cf. Sacrosantum Concilium, 10) and so that it may be linked to the sufferings and joys of the people.

The question of rites is an ancient one. The question of the Chinese rites at the time of Matteo Ricci and the question of the celebration in the Amazon are connected. We must be careful not to make the mistakes of the past. I was struck by the fact that the first intention of the prayer of the faithful in the Mass for the inauguration of the Synod for the Amazon was in Chinese. An authentically Catholic response must be given to the request of the Amazon communities to adapt the liturgy by valuing the original cosmo-vision, traditions, symbols, and rites that include transcendent, community and ecological dimensions.

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.


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