By Vatican News
Addressing the media present in the Holy See Press Office for the presentation of Querida Amazonia (The Beloved Amazon), Sister Augusta de Oliveira, Vicar General of the Servant Reparatrix Sisters servants of Mary explained that the document indicates the way for the Church to stand by the peoples of the Amazon region.
Sister Augusta’s congregation has been present in the Pan-Amazon region for 100 years, and she spoke with gratitude of the Pope's Exhortation which, she said, is a precious tool in the mission to uphold the rights and the dignity of the poor, of indigenous people, of Afro-Americans, of women.
She noted that the plight of all of the above was highlighted during October’s Synod of Bishops, which also underscored the need to recognize the role of the laity.
A cry for life
Sister Augusta recalled the experiences and stories narrated, during the Synod, by members of REPAM (a network of 9 Churches in the Amazon region) and by other associations, calling them "a cry for life".
She focused on the Pope's words in the Exhortation regarding the presence of "strong and generous" women who have kept the Church standing in some of those places, transmitting the faith when “even for decades no priest passed through".
She reiterated her own commitment and that of her religious sisters to continue to defend all forms of life that are under threat in the Amazon, noting that women religious are to be found even in the remotest areas, as witnessed by the testimony of Sister Dorothy Stang who was murdered exactly 15 years ago in Anapu, Brazil, because of her commitment to fight deforestation: “Always at the side of farmers and workers, she died with the Bible in her hands.”
Sister Augusta concluded her intervention expressing gratitude to the Pope for this synodal journey that gives life to a series of processes thanks to the four dreams he shares and that regard the social, the cultural, the ecological and the pastoral realms.
Father Adelson Araújo dos Santos, professor of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was also on hand to answer questions and elaborate on some of the passages of the Exhortation.
He dwelt on the poeticism of the document which he said well expresses Pope Francis’ love for his subject and his urgent appeal to “take care of our brothers and sisters and the environment, because those who love, take care.”
The four "dreams"
Father dos Santos also focused on the value of the word “dream”, used by the Pope in the document, pointing out that it is part of a biblical tradition, “a place where God reveals his plans.”
He said that in each of the four “dreams” shared by the Pope in Querida Amazonia, one can perceive that call to conversion formulated by the Synod fathers in the Final Document.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, was tasked with tracing the synodal process from its announcement by the Pope at the Angelus on 15 October 2017, all the way through to the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
Step after step
He recalled, amongst other things, the wide consultation which took place with the people of God in the Amazon during the Synod’s preparatory phase, and then the Synod itself which saw the presence of the bishops as well as 25 experts and 16 representatives of indigenous peoples.
He told of how this process resulted in the Final Document which was amended in the Minor Circles, and then voted by a two-thirds majority, resulting in a text which was delivered to the Pope and, according to his will, made public.
Responding to a question about Episcopalis communio on the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Baldisseri made it clear that the Final Document of the Synod for the Amazon, that the Pope urges all to read, has "a certain moral authority" but does not fall under Papal ordinary magisterium.
This aspect was also stressed by the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni, who said “the Apostolic Exhortation is magisterium, the final document is not”, and he added that “anything in the Final Document should be read in the lens of Querida Amazonia which has the authority of the ordinary magisterium of the Successor of Peter,” including any application.
It was also noted that the Exhortation was signed on the premises of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which gives it a particularly pastoral connotation.
Professor Carlos Nobre, a 2007 Nobel peace laureate and world expert on climate, said he welcomes the Exhortation because of its “model of development in which no one is left behind.”
He spoke of the importance of integrating ancient indigenous wisdom with new technologies in order to find a third way that is neither that of pure conservation nor that of high-intensity development, but that should lead to the cultivation of the Amazon without destroying it.
Also present for the briefing via a video link was Bishop David Martínez de Aguirre Guinea, Special Secretary of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region and Bishop of the Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, where, he recalled, the history of the Synod began in 2018 with the Pope’s visit.
A love letter to the Amazon
Finally, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Special Secretary of the Synod, described Querida Amazonia as a love letter that cries for crimes committed against the rainforest and marvels at the beauty of the land.
The Amazon has struck Pope Francis for its beauty and for its love, he said, and the Exhortation which begins as a love letter, reminds us that "only what is loved can be saved."