By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis brought the Special Synod on the Pan-Amazon region to a conclusion on Sunday morning, celebrating the closing Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. It is now the Lord of History who will accompany His people who have committed themselves once again to walk with Jesus as “disciples on the way” thus forming the People of God in the Amazon.
Second movement concludes
The Synod Symphony continued on Friday afternoon. Here the completed score, the Final Document, including contributions by all the Synod participants, was put in their hands.
Disciples on the way
As the Final Document says, the entire Amazon Synod experience was undertaken “specifically in the spirit of discipleship and under the light of the Word of God and of Tradition” (paragraph 5). This is the same attitude with which the Synod participants wish to continue the experience, adopting synodality, “the way of being for the primitive Church” (paragraph 87).
In harmony with the first disciples
The primitive Church was unified after the first Council held in Jerusalem: a council that sought to resolve a conflict between two cultures, just as this Synod is doing. That first synodal gathering came to a decision in the name of the Holy Spirit, and expressed that decision in a letter. Both the communities of Jerusalem and Antioch then “received the decision and make it their own” (paragraph 89). “To be truly ‘synodal’ means moving forward in harmony under the impulse of the life-giving Spirit” (paragraph 89), the Synod reminds today’s disciples.
Cultures in harmony
The synodal path traced out in the Amazon Synod has at heart the harmonious living together of several endangered cultures in the Pan-Amazon region. This path is rooted in the reality of the “desperation of the territory and its inhabitants, especially the indigenous peoples” (paragraph 2). “The Church promotes the integral salvation of the human person, valuing the culture of the indigenous peoples, speaking of their vital needs, accompanying their movements in the struggle for their rights” (paragraph 48). To this end, the Synod Fathers reaffirmed that their pastoral service “constitutes a service that encompasses all aspects of the lives of the indigenous peoples which obliges us to proclaim Jesus Christ and the Good News of the Kingdom of God so as to put an end to all sinful situations, structures that bring death, violence, internal and external injustices and promote intercultural, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue” (paragraph 80).
The Synod Symphony then entered its third movement. The “diagnosis” of the problems of the Church and society in the Amazon was laid at the feet of Peter, in the person of Pope Francis. His wish is that all members of the Church and of society focus on the “diagnosis” that the Synod process has identified, rather than individual solutions that have been proposed. This diagnosis is that a conversion is needed at the cultural, social, ecological and pastoral levels.
The role of tradition
Pope Francis summarized his own experience of the Synod saying that, “we are understanding more and more what it means to walk together, to discern, listen and incorporate the rich Tradition of the Church today. It is this very Tradition which, rather than safeguarding the past, “is the safeguard of the future”, he said. It is not meant to be “an urn filled with ashes”, preserving the corpse of a Church that once existed. Rather, the Pope said that the Church’s Tradition is more like the roots of a tree that send life-giving sap up into the tree, causing it to grow. “It helps us move forward”, he said.
The Pope also expressed his openness to exploring those proposals regarding ordained and non-ordained for both men and women. He also confirmed the need to find new ways of organizing the Church in the Amazon region in order to promote the Church’s evangelical mission. Some proposals, he said, will be entrusted to the competent Dicasteries in the Roman Curia, such as that pertaining to the creation of an Amazonian rite and an office dedicated to promoting human development in the Amazon region.
As it has been alluded to previously, the Synod that the Church in the Amazon has been living is none other than the continuation of the experience of the primitive Church gathered together around the Successor of Peter. As the Holy Spirit inspired the leaders of the early Church to institute the ministry of deacons, and to depart from Jewish customs regarding Gentile converts, so he will continue to guide the Church as she responds to the needs that have emerged from the Pan-Amazon region.
It is, therefore, an exciting and promising moment in the life of the Church in the Amazon and the Universal Church. We have witnessed Tradition in action in our own time, and will witness the marvels the Lord will work among His people through the new gifts of grace He will pour out on His Church.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Lord of History is still conducting the People of God, still accompanying them to the Grand Finale where we will finally live in full communion within the bosom of the eternal Father.