Growing up in Mexico, Mauricio López Oropeza was part of a society that tended to look northwards to the US for a kind of heaven on earth. But when, in 2009, he moved to Ecuador and took a trip to the part of the Amazon basin that sits within its eastern borders, something extraordinary happened.
“I came by bus from the highest mountains with snow and suddenly I entered this beautiful place, where I saw the biggest river, the entrance into the Amazon, and how the flora and fauna were always changing as we went down, down, down,” he says. “The temperature changed radically, and I felt, too, a change within me.”
Forty-one-year-old López has a day job – as director of Caritas Ecuador. But it is his work as executive secretary of Repam, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which brings together the national Catholic churches in the nine countries of the Amazon region, that makes him very much the man of the moment. For he is a member of the council currently working with Pope Francis on what looks set to be a headline-grabbing Special Synod when it meets in Rome in October.
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With thanks to The Tablet and Peter Stanford, where this article originally appeared.