Church must seek new paths in the Amazon region

The Church must look for new ways to make people feel welcome, say the special secretaries of next month’s synod on the Amazon.

Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez De Aguirre Guinea say the synod’s focus, “Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology,” will help the church make its presence felt and voice heard in the Amazon region.

The rainforest region crosses nine countries in South America. It has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

Czerny and Martinez say the synod will take place at a time when the region is approaching “a point of no return,” and “both human and natural life are suffering serious and perhaps irreversible destruction”.

In an article entitled “Why the Amazon merits a synod,” they say the synod is an effort to implement Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.

The encyclical observes the “gross inequality and cruel marginalization” caused by financial and consumerist greed and calls “for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment.”

It’s a wake-up call to the entire world, to all of humanity, Czerny and Martinez say.

“But it also suggests a new socio-pastoral orientation and dynamic for the church, which must understand the challenges faced by individuals and families and groups within these various dimensions.”

However, the church cannot give spiritual guidance and pastoral care if people are understood in isolation.

It needs to be integrated with people as well – how they live and function within the actual natural, economic and social conditions that they face.

Czerny and Martinez say the environmental problems are not the only ones besetting the region.

“Mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money” coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious “is endangering the presence of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

These types of challenge require a response that moves from a “ministry of visits to a ministry of presence,” Czerny and Martinez say.

“This is why, during the October Synod, the entire world should walk with the people of the Amazon; not to expand or divert the agenda, but to help the synod to make a difference.

“The Amazon region is huge, and its challenges are immense. If destroyed, the impacts will be felt worldwide.”


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