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Pope Francis among the indigenous people of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on Jan. 19, 2018. Pope Francis among the indigenous people of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on Jan. 19, 2018.   (AFP or licensors)

Baldisseri: the Pan-Amazon Synod is ecclesial not political event

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops on Monday opened a 2-day seminar in the Vatican in preparation for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican for the Pan-Amazon Region, October 6-27., 2019.

By Robin Gomes

"Towards the Special Synod for the Amazon: Regional and Universal Dimension" is the theme of the Feb. 25-27 seminar in the Vatican.

The seminar is one of the many initiatives that the General Secretariat has organized in preparation for the upcoming synod on the theme: “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.”   

 The idea of the 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.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, explained to Vatican News that the synod is not a political event but an ecclesial assembly dealing with issues concerning evangelization and the presence of the Church in the world.

Universal dimension

Card. Baldisseri noted that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution “Episcopalis communio ” of September 2018 points out that a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is convened to discuss matters which “pertain principally to one or more particular geographical areas”.  This explains that there cannot be a theme that, in the strict sense of the word, concerns only one territory, to the exclusion of all the others. This, the cardinal said, would be contrary to the very nature of the Church, as Saint Paul explains: "If a member suffers, all members suffer together; and if a member is honoured, all members rejoice with him". (1Cor 12,26).

This principle also applies to the Amazon, many of whose issues affect other areas of the planet, such as the Congo basin, the tropical forests of the Asian Pacific and the Guarani aquifer basin.  Hence the Vatican seminar deals with both the regional and universal dimensions.  The cardinal said the floor will first be given to those from the Amazonia, and then they will also listen to other voices to complete the emerging perspectives.

Goals of the Synod

Explaining the theme of the Special Synod, Card. Baldisseri said that launching new paths for the Church means fostering the leading role of the Christian community, which has always been at the service of the local populations in the work of evangelization and human promotion.

The Italian cardinal explained that the strengthening the "Amazonian face" of the Church requires a renewal of the evangelizing strategy, a new apostolic paradigm that knows how to strengthen the Christian presence in the territory, not relying only on missionaries from outside.

Today, he said, it is necessary to identify new forms of pastoral action that responds to the needs of small communities who live far apart from each other and are extremely original within.

Card. Baldisseri noted that integral ecology is a wide-ranging theme that draws deeply on nature and man, creation and the creatures that inhabit it.  Pope Francis in his Encyclical “Laudato Si”, speaks of the planet Earth as "Our Common Home" to be defended, protected and preserved, with particular attention to indigenous peoples, who suffer the most from the impact of the devastating effects of the plunder the environment.

In this situation, the challenge of the moment is to find a balance between the legitimate need for progress and sustainable use of natural resources, which takes into account the voice of local people, without considering them passive recipients of decisions taken by others.

Amazonia and the world

The Secretary of the Synod of Bishops explained that terms such as inculturation, integral ecology, the indigenous question and the coexistence of different populations indicate that the Special Synod inevitably has a universal dimension, which goes beyond the confines of the Amazon region’s vast territory (6.7 million km2).

The inculturation of the Gospel, that is, the "incarnation" of the Christian message in the cultural and spiritual expressions of peoples, he said, is a challenge for all Christian communities in a world subject to rapid change. In this regard, Pope Francis in Puerto Maldonado (Peru) in January 2018 stressed the importance of drawing on the wisdom and richness of the cultural traditions of those peoples.

Likewise, integral ecology, in which God, man and the environment are considered in their intimate relationship, calls into question the entire planet, because everywhere that relationship appears threatened.

Symptoms of ruptures in this relationship, the cardinal said, are the denial of the ethical element in the concept of development, the speed of change and degradation, natural disasters, social and financial crises.

Studies in the scientific field attribute these natural phenomena to progressive global warming, with tragic consequences that are already imminent in the coming decades.  The indigenous issue and the coexistence of different populations are realities of social importance that affect every area of the Amazonia territory and also increasingly raise questions in other areas of the planet.  This consideration is part of the global phenomenon of migratory flows, which at the moment represents one of the major problems of various countries in the world. In this context, a look at the Amazonia region can prove to be a promising laboratory for ecclesial and social reflection.

Hopes for the Synod

Card. Baldiserri pointed out that the Feb 25-27 Vatican seminar intends to highlight the importance of the Amazonia regions for the universal Church and for the whole world. It also aims to deepen some of the themes related to the ecclesial and ecological aspects, in order to offer a clear and realistic vision of the Pan-Amazonian situation, its characteristics and its problems. The seminar will also identify and welcome any suggestion from interventions and discussions. 

The upcoming Special Synod in October, the cardinal said, will be an opportune moment for the Church in its evangelizing mission and a moment of great attention and reflection for all humanity about " Our Common Home" and integral ecology, about which the Holy Father speaks.

Besides giving priority to the issue of indigenous peoples, it is also hoped that in underscoring the effective co-responsibility of the laity, the synod will pay special attention to the leading role of women and that consecrated life in the territory will be given greater value.

26 February 2019, 12:45