By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Bishops of the Amazon met from the 18 – 19 May to reflect on the situation in the region and to explore possibilities for new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology, in light of the recommendations of the 2019 Synod.
Present at the virtual meeting was the undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Michael Czerny, who accompanied the Bishops in reflecting on their pre-synodal, synodal and post-synodal journey.
Cardinal Czerny traced the journey, beginning from the 2007 Aparecida document which offers proposals and orientations (nos 474 and 475) for a comprehensive pastoral care of the Amazon where there is the need to “evangelize our peoples to discover the gift of creation, learning to contemplate and care for it as the home of all living beings and the matrix of life on the planet.”
Alongside this, there is the importance of deepening the “pastoral presence in the most fragile populations threatened by predatory development, and support them in their efforts to achieve an equitable distribution of land, water and urban spaces”, while seeking “an alternative model of development, integral and in solidarity, based on an ethic that includes responsibility for an authentic natural and human ecology, based on the Gospel of justice, solidarity and the universal destination of goods.”
Aparecida also reflects on efforts towards the “enactment of public policies and citizen participation that guarantee the protection, conservation and restoration of nature”, as well as the creation of awareness in the Americas of the importance of the Amazon for all of humanity and the need for a developmental model that favors the poor in service of the common good.
In the almost fifteen years since the document, Cardinal Czerny noted the highs and lows of the response to the recommendations of the Aparecida.
He also recalled Pope Francis’ meeting with the Bishops of Brazil in 2013, during which the Holy Father highlighted that “the Amazon is crucial, even decidedly relevant to the current and future path, not only of the Church in Brazil, but also of the whole of society.” The Pope also invited everyone to reflect on the Aparecida document and on the call to respect and stewardship of creation.
Cardinal Czerny went on to note that in 2014, just one year later, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) was born.
The October 2019 Synod, themed: “New paths for the church and for an integral ecology,” was “a process of conversion that makes us discover how a unique and inseparable theme awaits us, not only to be understood but, more importantly, to be lived,” said the Cardinal.
A few months later, Pope Francis put out the “Querida Amazonia” Post-Synodal Exhortation, in which he expressed four dreams that the Amazon region inspires in him. The Cardinal describes them as a social, cultural, ecological and ecclesial dream.
Pastoral care – the mother of all priorities
Cardinal Czerny said that, if we had to identify the mother of all priorities, it would be “to establish a collaborative ministry among the local churches of the various South American countries in the Amazon basin, with differentiated priorities… to support with the necessary human and financial resources, the Church that lives in the Amazon so that it may continue proclaiming the gospel of life and carry out its pastoral work in forming lay people and priests and communities” (Aparecida no 475).
To do this, the Synod presents some clues in the search for an “Amazonian face of an inculturated Church in intercultural dialogue, a Church so close to the Amazonian peoples that it identifies with them.” It includes involving all ecclesiastical levels, as well as communities, the religious, territories and the over one hundred peoples in the region.
In this regard, Cardinal Czerny offered examples of a "Church that goes out", a Synodal Church that involves different ecclesial organs and entities, and opens spaces for dialogue and listening.
He also highlighted the vocation of a Samaritan Church at the service of people, especially during the ongoing pandemic and the importance of recognizing the role of the multiform lay vocation, interculturation and interculturality.
The Cardinal also encouraged awareness for integral conversion that sensitizes us to the reality of ecological sin and how to reconcile ourselves with the destruction of our common home.
Concluding, Cardinal Czerny highlighted that the challenges we still have can be summarized in that the Amazonian and Brazilian Church must be “always more missionary and evangelizing in the (re)construction of the common home in the Amazon.” To achieve this, he noted, “we need processes of articulation and synergy and openness to options, planning and results that we welcome with the grace of the newness of the Holy Spirit.”