VATICAN CITY — To proclaim the Gospel message of hope, the
Catholic Church in the Amazon must open new paths of evangelization in
the region, including by instituting new ministries for lay men and
women, the Synod of Bishops stated.
At the heart of the final
document of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon was the need to bring
the good news to the Amazon, a mission that includes safeguarding the
indigenous people, cultures and land that are under constant threat of
“The Amazon rainforest is a ‘biological heart’ for
the increasingly threatened earth,” according to the final document,
released Oct. 26 after synod members voted on it.
members said, is on “a rampant race to death. It is scientifically
proven that the disappearance of the Amazon biome will have a
catastrophic impact on the planet as a whole!”
The synod brought
together 185 voting members — cardinals, bishops, 20 priests and one
religious brother — and 80 experts and observers to discuss “new paths
for the Church and for an integral ecology.”
All 120 paragraphs in
the final document garnered the necessary two-thirds approval needed
for passage. The Vatican said 181 synod members were present, so each
paragraph needed 120 votes to pass.
focus of the synod’s final document was the call for the Church to
further its mission in proclaiming the Good News by uniting itself more
to the people of the Amazon who, for decades, have suffered the
consequences of humankind’s greed.
At the synod, “We discovered
that the mighty waters of the Spirit, similar to those of the Amazon
River, which periodically overflow, lead us to this overflowing life
that God offers us to share in the
announcement” of the Gospel,” the
The document underscores the crucial role of
Amazonian ecosystems in regulating the global climate and as an
important source of fresh water that “connects ecosystems, cultures and
the development of the territory.”
The Amazon faces environmental
threats that make it “a wounded and deformed beauty, a place of
suffering and violence,” the bishops wrote. Violence against nature, in
the form of rampant extraction of resources, unsustainable development
and climate change, also have “serious social consequences.”
bring greater awareness and responsibility to the universal Church, the
synod document proposed a definition of ecological sin as an act of
commission or omission against God, against one’s neighbor, the
community and the environment.”
The document also proposed the
creation of “special ministries for the care of our ‘common home’” that
would promote ways of caring for the environment “at the parish level.”
synod called on all Christians to show their awareness of the value of
God’s creation by countering the current “culture of excessive
consumption” through recycling, reducing their use of fossil fuels and
plastic, as well as by reducing their consumption of meat and fish.
New roles and ministries
discussions that took place in the synod, the document stated, also
offered bishops an opportunity to reflect “on how to structure the local
Churches” in order to address the needs of a “Church with an Amazonian
Among those ways are new ministries and roles for the
laity, including “in consultation or decision-making in the life and
mission of the Church.”
To increase the Church’s presence in areas
that lack priests, the document proposed that bishops entrust “the
exercise of the pastoral care of the communities to a person not
invested” with the priesthood for “a specific period of time.”
“the priest, with the power and faculty of the parish priest, is always
responsible for the community,” the document stated.
members asked for further discussion on the idea of women deacons, but
approved several paragraphs in the document insisting that their role in
leading Catholic communities be recognized and that “the voice of women
can be heard, they are consulted and participate in decision-making” in
The final document also emphasized the importance of
the Eucharist as “the source and summit of all Christian life.” However,
it acknowledged that a lack of priests means Catholics in the Amazon
have only sporadic access to the Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing
of the sick.
While highlighting the gift of celibacy in the
Catholic Church and the need for celibate priests in the region, the
document proposed the ordination of “suitable and esteemed men of the
community, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an
adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted
and stable family.”
Although the paragraph regarding the proposal
for ordaining married was approved, it received the least amount of
support among those who voted, with 128 in favor and 41 opposed.
after the vote on the document, Pope Francis said the synod’s
discussion on women “falls short” of explaining who women are in the
Church, particularly “in the transmission of faith, in the preservation
Synod members also asked Pope Francis to revise St.
Paul VI’s 1972 document on ministries, “Ministeria Quaedam” (“Some
Ministries”), so that women could be installed formally as lectors and
acolytes and in any new ministries to be developed.
that a “large number” of participants in the pre-synod consultations
asked for women deacons and that several members of the synod itself
made such a call, the final document did not include an explicit request
for such a move.
The final document also
spoke of the “elaboration of an Amazonian rite,” as several synod
members had proposed. The bishops voted to ask for a special
post-synodal commission of bishops to be tasked with studying the idea.
the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
document, “Lumen Gentium,” the final document stated that the proposed
rite would express “the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and
spiritual patrimony of the Amazon” in a way similar to the Eastern
However, in his address following the vote on
the final document Oct. 26, the pope reminded synod members that the
creation of an Amazonian rite “is within the competence of the
Congregation for Divine Worship and can be done according to the
After the votes were cast, Pope Francis
told synod participants that he hoped to publish a post-synodal
exhortation “before the end of the year so that not too much time has
“A word from the pope about what he has lived in the
synod may do some good,” the pope said. “It all depends on how much time
I have to think.”
Christians must shun self-worship, pope says at synod’s final Mass
By Barbara J. Fraser | Catholic News Service
CITY — Poor people from the Amazon have shown that God’s creation must
be treated “not as a resource to be exploited but as a home to be
preserved, with trust in God,” Pope Francis said.
Mass Oct. 27 to mark the end of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon,
which brought together bishops, priests and religious, and lay men and
women, including indigenous people, from the nine Amazonian countries.
participants, some wearing their native dress and feathered
headdresses, led the procession into St. Peter’s Basilica. During the
offertory, an indigenous woman presented the pope with a plant.
of using a crosier made of precious metals, the pope carried a carved
wooden crosier that the Vatican said was a gift from the synod. During
the assembly, participants described the environmental devastation and
social problems caused by mining in the Amazon.
homily about the Gospel parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the
tax collector drew parallels to the situation in the Amazon.
Pharisee was “the most pious and devout figure of the time, and the tax
collector, the public sinner par excellence,” Pope Francis said. But in
Jesus’ eyes, “the one who is good but presumptuous fails; the one who is
a disaster but humble is exalted by God.”
The Pharisee “stands in
the temple of God, but he practices another religion, the religion of
‘I,’ and many popular groups, Christian and Catholic, follow this path,”
Pope Francis said. “The drama of this man is that he is without love.”
contrast, the tax collector’s prayer for mercy “is born from the
heart,” the pope said. “To pray is to stand before God’s eyes, without
illusions, excuses or justifications.”
Everyone is both Pharisee
and tax collector, the pope said. “We are a bit tax collectors because
we are sinners, and a bit Pharisees because we are … masters of the art
The Pharisee’s attitude is apparent in
“those who are prominent” considering others to be “backward and of
little worth, despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy
their lands, and usurp their goods,” he added.
The pope’s words
echoed the accounts of indigenous observers at the synod, who described a
history of plundering of timber, rubber, minerals and other natural
resources in the Amazon. That rapaciousness has displaced people from
their land and spurred violence, including human trafficking and the
murder of people who try to defend their territories.
synod we have had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and
reflecting on the precariousness of their lives,” Pope Francis said.
“scarred face of the Amazon region,” he said, shows that past
experience has not been enough “to stop the plundering of other persons
and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our
The pope’s language throughout the synod has echoed
the words of his namesake, St. Francis, who praised God through his
brothers, wind and air, and his sister, Mother Earth.