Vatican News
Pope Francis with Cardinal Hummes during the Synod Pope Francis with Cardinal Hummes during the Synod  (AFP or licensors)

Cardinal Hummes: Synod cries out to humanity to save the planet

In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, General Relator of the Synod and President of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), explains the Final Document of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon Region.

By Silvonei Protz - Vatican City

Q - Your Eminence, we have reached the end of a journey of almost two years that has involved many people who made this Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region happen. It has truly been a great amount of work that ends now with the publication of this final document. In his speech, in the fifth general congregation, you spoke of "a moment of ecological emergency" and also of the fact that the Church hears the cry of the peoples of the Amazon, the cry of the Earth ...

A. - First of all, I want to say that it was truly a great joy, the realization of this Synod; and it does not end with the Synod: it is a synodal process that now truly begins to be undertaken. By this I mean that the post-Synod is equally important in this process: the implementation of the Synod. Of course the Synod is a high point, it is the high point that brings light to the streets. But it continues now, the whole process will continue also in the post-synodal implementation, in the territory and in every place where there is a connection. It is a process that will continue; we will return to our territory and there we will really start working. It is true that we must understand this Synod within this moment of great risk for planet Earth: we know, both through the Laudato si' and through Cop 21 in Paris, which took place a few months after the publication of Laudato si', that we are in a situation where there is a serious and urgent climate and ecological crisis: serious, because the future of the planet and therefore also the future of humanity is really at risk. This is not said in an apocalyptic way, of great alarm: it is said in the serenity of science. Science serenely tells us: "That's it", and we must take measures to ensure that this crisis is overcome. So, let's do it because we still have time to do it. It's true that time is shorter each time, but there's time and we can do it and we want to do it; we want to unite:  the Church also wants to be a voice that unites the forces of humanity, not playing the part of one that knows everything, but the Church also wants to present a light to the world. And we know that this light is important. But in the world there are also many other lights so that together we can do this work of overcoming this crisis. And in this great serious and urgent crisis, it was even being said in Paris with great determination that later it will be too late, and that means "now". Not in an alarmist or apocalyptic sense, but rather in the sense of arousing the immediate work of nations and of all humanity to save the planet. In this great crisis of the planet, the Amazon - everyone knows it and even scientists tell us - the Amazon has a fundamental, decisive role, because if we lose the Amazon the planet runs very serious risks, irrecoverable, and that would really be a disaster for all humanity and for our history. It is within this context that we can better understand the historical importance of this Synod: it really has a historical importance. And in this regard, study, read this document as a document in the context of this great crisis.

Q. - What key for reading, then, can we give to this final document?

A. - The Document, it must be stressed immediately, cannot be read as a book or as a written text by an author, because an author also writes literature and also has a structure that is much more connected, much more logical; this is a text written with many hands: there are many hands that have collaborated in the drafting of this text, because it was an assembly. And this is the richness, also, of the text: this does not impoverish it, no, it is its richness. Even if reading the text is different from reading a book, which contains more literature, even more connection, this means that we must look above all at the contents, rather than the structure.  Obviously, there is a structure and a logic, but it’s not the same as if it were the result of a single author. We must look above all at the content: it is the content that is important. We know that today the majority of people no longer reads a book, an entire book or an entire large document; people go there to look at those parts of the book or document that interest them and perhaps, afterwards, they will be interested in some other point. We also know that it will be read like this. Certainly, the academic world will read it in another way, but in the pastoral work of people, of communities, all of us will read it for its contents and which are almost always read in sections. This must be very clear. To see that there are great themes that are central and other themes, that are also important but not central. For example, the Pope always says the great central themes are first of all the original peoples, the indigenous peoples because they run a risk like never before, a real risk for their survival. The original indigenous peoples see how things are going: they have no future. And this is terrible, not having a future. We know that this also applies today to the ecological crisis. It is always rightly expressed: "You who are fathers, you who are grandparents, you who have children, you who have grandchildren, look into the eyes of your children: what is the future that you want for them? That their future is to not have a future? It means that all of us must feel challenged: you who have children, you who have grandchildren, all our youth, these children that look to us and challenge us by saying: "The future that you have prepared is to have no future! And this is what the natives also say, very strongly: we too, because of the way things are going at the moment, will have no future. And this is not right, this is absolutely unacceptable. So this is the central theme, the question of the indigenous people. But the central theme also includes the rest of the population, including the urban population, among which there are also many indigenous people, today, even in cities with very difficult situations: the situation of the indigenous people in the cities is very difficult. Yes, some people also manage to make progress in the cities, because we also have indigenous engineers, who have gone to university, who are in professions like any other person in our western societies. But the vast majority of them cannot really survive in cities with dignity. So cities are also involved and questioned. And then, all together, there is the question of the territory, because even the territory is threatened, as I said, by the climate crisis, by the ecological crisis: everything there is degraded, stripped, less and less in a position to continue to produce. Why? First of all because the great forests, as we know today- even science says so –offer far greater wealth, obviously in a shorter period, but they offer greater wealth when they have been cut down: a standing forest is better, it will also give much more resources to the countries that own them and to the world. So we really must fight for them to be preserved, because with forests we can also preserve water: water, which is another very strong theme, the question of contaminated water ... a large part of fresh water, the drinking water of the world is there! The water cycle is also very important. Without this water cycle, if it is affected, even regions that are not currently part of the Amazon will no longer have a future in terms of agriculture and so on. These are the major central problems. Another central problem which the Church speaks of and the Church speaks of her mission within this context - is how the Church can better accomplish her mission in the Amazon. So, being with the people, so that they have better conditions than they have at present. There are new paths that must be decided and then also realized. We know that it will be a long process, but one must know in which direction to build this process. That is why it is so important that we say "in that direction and not in the other", and indicate the conditions. This also includes the issue of ministries, which was not the central theme of the Synod. No, the Synod is not about ministries in the Church; however, that was also important because this would be a better way for the Church to truly be with the people and allow their dignity and their rights, even within the Church, to be increasingly accepted and promoted. In this sense we speak of ministries.

Q. - There are two themes that came out a lot in the media and also in the briefings, they were the viri probati and female diaconate ...

A. - Yes, and it is for that reason that I say that the Synod was not a Synod to discuss ministries: this was always clear for us, for the Pope and for everyone. However, for a lot of the time outside there was too much emphasis on this question. Obviously, it's an important issue, but the Synod was not implemented for this issue. Nevertheless, we also know that this issue is important for the Amazon, especially for the indigenous peoples and that is why this issue also entered into it. Another very strong theme, and this already has more to do with the region, is the recognition of the work of women, of women within the territory, because a large part, about 70% of the communities within the Amazon, are run by women: they are the leaders. And this is a truly wonderful job that we must recognize, praise and support as much as is necessary. They say, "No, we don't want you to say 'good, good'... no. You must recognize, first of all, and also take a further step by giving us, as leaders, greater strength, greater authority. In this sense, they had asked above all for a ministry established by women community leaders. No, there was no talk of an ordained ministry, but of a ministry instituted for women. And with that, I believe that also with regard to other aspects of the whole question of women in the Church there was an approach that indicates - I think - that we have made progress in that too, yes.

Q. - All this is now in the hands of the Holy Father ...

A. - Yes, of course, it is in the hands of the Holy Father and we must wait for what he will do. Normally he writes a post-synodal document and then we have to wait a while to see how the Pope will choose to make public or grant authority to all this ... In any case, always, even when the Pope produces his post-synodal document, everything that the Synod has done and decided and indicated, continues always to help understand what the Pope proposes in his document. And we are calm, serene, all of us, and also with joy finish the work and say that we will continue, of course, we are and will continue to be quietly and serenely "cum Petro and sub Petro", which means "with the Pope and under the guidance of the Pope", because that is what makes the great Catholic communion.

Q. - Can you create a small picture for those who have not been inside the Synod? What happened in these three weeks within the Synod?

A. - The atmosphere was very fraternal, even if there were also moments of discussion because there were important things to discuss; but always very fraternal, an atmosphere of much prayer, always much prayer, and in the end all this has been growing, because little by little more and more this communion has manifested itself, even if there are differences. Because ecclesial communion has a lot to do with this. We, I repeat, are not a parliament, in the Synod. In Parliament there are parties and there is a vote, everyone wants to be the winner and the others are the losers ... no. The Synod cannot work in this spirit; the Synod is not a Parliament. The Synod is the Church that is united, has a strong communion but also respects differences. Differences, whether minor or major, do not take away from us this characteristic, this reality of being a communion. The Pope always says that it is necessary to build a communion rather than parties; a communion which everyone supports, even if they have small differences, but supports for the greater good that is what ecclesial communion means.

Q. – In these days of the Synod, REPAM came up a lot: the role of REPAM with regards to the Synod. You are the president of REPAM ...

R. - Yes, REPAM was founded in 2014, when Pope Francis was already Pope, and he really wanted it to be a service that would connect all the dioceses, prelatures, missions and other institutions of the Amazon, of the Great Amazon of the nine countries. A service of connection: and he did it. And it really has grown a lot, because so many people have joined together: today we are truly a group that works as REPAM and this means that the network has been built to network everyone. It's a service: REPAM is not an extra institution. We say that we are not another institution that has its own work programme: no. We want to be a service that connects what exists, that gives greater unity so that voices and forces can be combined, because there is the great problem of isolation in the Amazon: there are great distances, forests are great... Let alone a prelature, a diocese, a vicariate in the middle of the forest: little by little the awareness of being isolated is created, they feel alone before their dreams and in confronting their problems, because they do not have the conditions to realize their dreams and to fight their problems. That is why sometimes they feel very alone and then the network means "no, you are not alone, you are not alone: we are here; make your voice heard, we will be there with you. We all want to work together. And this has worked out very well. Now REPAM will obviously continue this service at this level, with people from the territory, with the Church, witnessing to a Church that is with the people and not simply at home, evangelizing and organizing the community from afar.

Q. – (And what about) The Pope's participation with you, in plenary, in the Synod Hall ...

A. - It was an extraordinary thing! Everyone was so happy, everyone, especially the people who came from Brazil, from the Amazon, who had never had the opportunity to see the Pope. Of course, they had seen him on television, but being there, with the Pope who was among us with an enormous simplicity, together, close, being photographed and that gives strength to people, gives hope to people, smiles, embraces ... this was something absolutely extraordinary. People have been so, so, so happy about this...

Q. – (Do you have) A thought for the many workers in the field of communications who came from all over the world to Rome for the Synod...

A. - We thank all the communicators very much, because without them today nothing is done, the voice doesn’t get past the door. It's important, and today communication technology is fantastic. which is a great progress, of course.  There are problems, but progress is much greater than the problems. So, we really say thank you very much for the work they have done and continue to do, even trying to keep the big problems at the centre, not just some problem - which is also important - such as that of ministries, but the big issues that concern the planet, the issue of the indigenous people, the issue of the territory, the issue of a very predatory global system today that you really have to review: how to deal with a great crisis, serious and urgent, that the planet is suffering. And the Church with much responsibility wants to be among those who take this problem seriously.

 

26 October 2019, 22:37