By Robin Gomes
An Indian cardinal participating in the Amazon Synod, currently taking place in the Vatican, says he is moved by the passion of the bishops of the Amazonia region for their poor and suffering people.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, made the remark in an interview to Vatican News.
A Synod Father, appointed by Pope Francis, Cardinal Gracias is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) that brings together India’s Latin-rite bishops as well as the two eastern-rite Churches – the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches.
He served as the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) of the Latin-rite for 3 terms and is also a former president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
The theme of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region is: Amazonia - new pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology.
The Synod is now entering its final week, with the closing scheduled for October 27. After the general sessions, participants are now trying to sum up the findings of their meetings in small groups.
Listening to the various interventions of the Synod so far, Cardinal Gracias says he feels the Church is really one body. He notes that Asia, as well as India, have challenges that are similar to the people of Amazonia.
The cardinal expresses his gratitude to Pope Francis for having nominated him to the Synod because he is learning a lot about the challenges of the people of the Amazon which are a little different but essentially the same, such as making the Gospel values present and reaching out to the poor in the peripheries.
Passion for the people
Another aspect of the Synod that struck the cardinal is the passionate care of the bishops of the Amazonia for their poor people who are suffering. The bishops are the voice of the voiceless. They are listening to the cry of the people against violence, exploitation, injustice and are passionately concerned about their future. Hence, being in the Synod has been a good learning experience and inspiration for Cardinal Gracias.
Exploitation of the indigenous
What came out strongly in the interventions, according to Cardinal Gracias, is the exploitation of the indigenous people. He says this is also happening in India.
“The Adivasis and the tribals are our indigenous people. Their land is being taken away. Legislation is being passed that deprive them of the privileges they have.”
The 74-year old cardinal explained that many of these original residents do not have proper documents. They are not accustomed to all this but they have been living in their lands for centuries. “All of a sudden, someone comes telling them they don’t have proper papers, so their land is being taken away.”
Cardinal Gracias pointed out that India also has the problem of deforestation but to a lesser extent than in the Amazonia, where it is rampant. In India, corporate companies are taking over the land. He lamented that the green cover of the country is gradually diminishing.
“Fortunately, the government has been speaking about the necessity for taking care of the climate” but in reality, the corporates” have been doing otherwise.
Shortage of pastors
The third issue that came up in the Synod, is the acute shortage of priests in the Amazonia region. The faithful don’t have the Eucharist for six months or a year. Fortunately, this is not the situation in India, but the exploitation of the indigenous people is very strongly felt in India.