Church ‘can’t sacralize, nor Satanize’ every indigenous practice

The Church “cannot sacralize every indigenous thing, nor can we Satanize it,” Brazilian Bishop Wilmar Santin said at a press conference about the synod on the Amazon.

Other speakers included Colombian Bishop Medardo de Jesús Henao Del Río and Colombian Sister Gloria Liliana Franco Echeverri.

Santin said many Amazon-region Catholics are defecting to other churches because “we don’t manage to arrive on time to where people are, because everything is centralized in the figure of the priest.

“We’re looking for new paths, new strategies, because the reality is new, the challenges different…

“We have to change things so that not everything depends on the priest; because if not, we’re not upholding our mission, that of proclaiming the Word of God.”

Many Catholics in the Amazon have to go to an Evangelical church to hear God’s word.

Santin says Pentecostal groups are gaining a foothold in the Amazon. They are “very aggressive” against the culture of the indigenous peoples, he says.

In his territory, a formation course for ministers of the Word was started two years ago. He says today there are 48 men proclaiming the Gospel in their native language.

Responding to a question about female deacons, Franco said the Church is currently in a “Kairos” – that is, a unique time.

A sign of this is that there are 40 women participating in the synod and many others participated in the pre-synod listening sessions.

“The Church, too, has a feminine face, is woman, is teacher.

“But in this ‘today’ of the world and the Church, the Church is fundamentally sister and disciple.

“As women, we have a path to go through, but we’re not the protagonists, as many have walked it before us, such as St. Claire of Assisi.”

Franco said the Church “discerns,” looking for a more “clear” face for women.

This would not be one of “power, but fundamentally, of service, of giving oneself, of recognition and value of a specific role that women have in our communities as theologians, as catechists, as movers, as promoters of the people’s quality of life.

Henao Del Río spoke of the situation where multinational corporations have “caused displacement of whole indigenous communities.

He explained land is fundamentally important to locals because their relatives are buried there.

Furthermore, Colombia’s civil war has a deep impact, where Marxist FARC guerrillas used the rainforest for the coca plant used to make cocaine.

Many young indigenous joined the rebels as an easy way to make money, which in turn changed their traditional lifestyle.

“We are there to fight against the exploitation of indigenous peoples,” he said. “The state is absent and has abandoned them.”


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