Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region
The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region is scheduled to meet in Rome from 6 to 27 October 2019. Pope Francis announced on 15 October 2017 that it would work "to identify new paths for the evangelization of God's people in that region", specifically the indigenous peoples who are "often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future".
The obstacles to evangelization include the difficult terrain that makes native populations hard to reach, the great variety of languages spoken, and the resistance of landowners and business interests. The Amazon basin, according to one Vatican report, covers some 6,000,000 km2, with a population of 2.8 million divided among 400 tribes that "speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families". The Synod defines the region to include all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, and Suriname, most of which are countries where most of the population is Roman Catholic.
As early as 1912, in the encyclical Lacrimabili statu, Pope Pius X denounced the owners of the rubber plantations in Peru for mistreating the native population and condemned Capuchin missionaries for failing to protect them.
Visiting Brazil in July 2013, Pope Francis said: "The Church's presence in the Amazon Basin is not that of someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible. The Church has been present in the Amazon Basin from the beginning, in her missionaries, religious congregations, priests, laity and bishops, and she is still present and critical to the area's future." Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si' (2015), focused on the need to defend the poor and their natural environment.
Since March 2015, the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM) has coordinated the work of the Catholic Church in the Amazon region, marshaling the work of priests and missionaries, national representatives of Caritas and lay advocates to protect both the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and the natural resources of the region from exploitation. Archbishop Salvador Pineiro García-Calderón of Ayacucho, President of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference, reported that Pope Francis proposed a synod devoted to the Amazon region in a meeting with the bishops of Peru in May 2017. He mentioned it to the bishops of Ecuador in September 2017.
Francis visited Peru on 19 January 2018 and was met by 4,000 members of the indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest. He said that the people of the Amazon were threatened now more than ever, and questioned the conservationist policies that affect the Peruvian rainforest. In Puerto Maldonado, he asked for the indigenous communities to be recognized as partners instead of as minorities. He said that "all the efforts we make in order to regain the life of the peoples of the Amazon will always be too few". He called on the Peruvian people to put an end to practices that degrade women, and criticized the sterilization of indigenous women.
A working document released in June 2018 identitied the key themes of the Synod as the role of women in the Church, the rights and traditions of indigenous people, and the need to provide greater access to the Eucharist. In preliminary meetings two possible innovations for the Synod's consideration included the ordination of married men and a modification of Eucharistic requirements. The region faces a shortage of priests capable of serving remote rural populations. In January 2019 Pope Francis expressed sympathy for the ordination of married men as priests in the Pacific islands: "It's something to think about when there's a pastoral need." Since the wheat-based bread normally used for the Eucharist is ill-suited to the Amazon's humidity, the Synod may consider allowing the use of the region's yucca-based bread. In May 2019 Cardinal Cláudio Hummes put the shortage of priests in the context of inculturation. He said that the Amazon needs its own Church with "an Amazon face and also an indigenous face" rather than "a European Church transplanted in the Amazon". He asked: "How can we think of an indigenous church for the indigenous if there are no indigenous clergy?"
On 4 May 2019, Francis appointed Hummes as General Rapporteur of the Synod, and named two Special Secretaries: Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, and Father Michael Czerny, under-secretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Synod's preparatory document (instrumentum laboris), titled "Amazonia, new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology", was published on 17 June 2019. The key issues of the instrumentum laboris were the ordination of married men, the role for women in the Church, and environmental concerns. The document drew polarized reactions among Catholics. According to Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno, the agenda put forward "largely expresses the feelings and desires of many representatives of the Amazon people". However, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller qualified the document as "heretical" because it contradicted the "binding Church teaching in decisive points". Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, went in the same direction, emphasizing that the working document contained "false teaching" on God's revelation. Müller added that "no Pope, synod or council could make possible the ordination of women as bishop, priest or deacon."
Subject of married priests
On August 9, 2019, Pope Francis announced that the ordination of married priests will "absolutely not" be one of the main topics which will be discussed at the Synod and that it is “simply a number of the Instrumentum Laboris.”
Embracement of Globalization and Denunciation of Isolationism and Populism
On August 9, 2019, Pope Francis announced that the Synod will denounce isolationism and populism, which "lead to war." The Pope also stated that "Globalization and unity should not be conceived as a sphere, but as a polyhedron: each people retains its identity in unity with others." He previously noted the importance of a globalized market in the working document as well.
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