Bishops pledge before martyrs graves to serve the poor

Forty bishops at the Amazon synod pledged to work for a prophetic Church dedicated to serving the poor during a ceremony on the burial site of some of Rome’s early Christian martyrs.

Last Sunday, the prelates, including two cardinals, went to the Catacombs of Domitilla, on the outskirts of the Eternal City, to sign the “Catacombs pact for a Common Home”.

Lay people and women were included among the signatories.

The historic declaration is a renewal of a pact signed in 1965 in the same place by bishops attending the Second Vatican Council.

In the 1965 pact, a group of bishops pledged to live simply, renounce personal possessions and “names and titles that express prominence and power.”

The 2019 agreement revives the 1965 pact’s spirit, albeit focusing on the Amazon synod and building a Church with an “Amazonian face”. There is also less focus on the lifestyle choices of bishops.

Among its 15 pledges, the agreement includes:

  • A call to defend the natural world, the rainforest and the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.
  • A “preferential option of the poor” and the region’s native peoples along with a rejection of “all types of colonialist mentalities and postures”.
  • A recognition of the service of “the great number of women who today direct communities in the Amazon”.
  • A pledge to avoid the “avalanche of consumerism” by living “happily sober lifestyle, simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing”, and “favouring the production and commercialisation of agro-ecological products and using public transport whenever possible”.

This last pledge is like the 1965 pact where the bishops pledged to “try to live according to the ordinary manner of our people in all that concerns housing, food, means of transport, and related matters”.

Another similarity to the 1965 pact is the inclusion of laity.

Where the 1965 pact says bishops would look for “collaborators in ministry so that we can be animators according to the Spirit rather than dominators” the 2019 agreement calls for a “synodal lifestyle”.

In this lifestyle, laity would have a “voice and vote” in ecclesial structures.

By signing the agreement, the bishops are seeking to connect the Amazon synod with the spirit of the early Church, by acknowledging the extent to which the contemporary Church is linked to the first Christian communities.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has rekindled the spirit of the 1965 pact and is part of the inspiration for new one.

He has pledged a “poor Church for the poor” and a desire to implement Vatican II.

Since becoming pope, Francis lives in a suite of modest rooms in a Vatican guesthouse, continuing the simple lifestyle he pursued while in Argentina.



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