By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Monday met 3 members of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), an organism that is collaborating with the Vatican General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in organizing the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, in the Vatican in October.
The Pope received in private audience Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the prefect emeritus of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, Colombian Bishop Carlos Barreto Barreto of Quibdò and Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, the executive secretary of REPAM.
Also on Monday, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops announced that the Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region will take place in the Vatican, October 6 to 27.
The theme is: “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.”
The idea of such a synod was born out of Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home”, which calls for action on global warming and pinpoints the Pan-Amazon Region as an area of concern.
The Pope first announced the synod on 15 October 2017.
Preparing for Synod
During a press conference to release the preparatory document of the Pan-Amazon Region Synod, on June 8, last year, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops noted that “in the Pan-Amazon region, priority must be given to the native peoples who live there”.
When Pope Francis visited the Amazonia region for the first time at Puerto Maldonado in southeast Peru on January 19, 2018, he said that the indigenous people of the Amazonia have never been so threatened as they are now.
Card. Baldisseri said that the synod will pay attention to the theme of the environment, ecology, and care for creation, our ‘common home’. All these will be presented in the light of the teaching and life of the Church, working in the region.
The Pan-Amazon Region comprises more than 7.5 million square kilometres, with 9 countries sharing the same biome (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana) and involving 7 bishops’ conferences.
The Amazon basin is one of the major biodiversity reserves (30 to 50% of the world’s flora and fauna) and of fresh water (20% of the frozen water of the entire planet) for our planet.
The region has more than a third of the world’s primary forests and is a major source of oxygen for the entire earth.
This vast territory has a population of 34 million inhabitants of whom over 3 million are indigenous people belonging to more than 390 ethnic groups. They also include peoples and cultures of all kinds such as Afro-descendants, peasants, settlers, etc. All live in a vital relationship with the vegetation and the waters of the rivers according to their cyclical movements, such as overflows, refluxes and periods of drought.
Inhabited centres and cities in Amazonia have rapidly increased in number due to migration to the suburbs so that today between 70% and 80% of the population resides in these centres and cities.
The richness of the forest and rivers is threatened by great economic interests, in the various points of the territory, which cause indiscriminate deforestation and the contamination of rivers and lakes, due to the use of agro-toxic substances, oil spills, mining and drug production.
To all this must be added the dramatic increase in human trafficking, especially in women and children, for the purpose of every kind of inhuman exploitation.
In his state-of-the-world address to the diplomatic corps in the Vatican on January 7, Pope Francis said that earth belongs to everyone, and the consequences of its exploitation affect all the peoples of the world, even if certain regions feel those consequences more dramatically. Among the latter, he said, is the Amazonia region, which will be at the centre of the forthcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October.