Historic first: Pope approves ‘ecclesial conference’ including lay people

ecclesial conference

Pope Francis has approved the statutes of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon, giving it formal recognition in the church.

“We are living a ‘kairos,’ a propitious time of God in the history of the church,” Amazon conference president Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno (pictured with the Pope) says.

The now officially-recognised body “involves bishops, priests, women and men religious and the lay faithful from the nine countries of the Amazon region,” Barreto explains.

“lt’s the first of its kind in the history of the church and the first concrete fruit of the Amazonian synod.”

Barreto expects similar ecclesial conferences to emerge on other continents in the coming years.

He predicts “bishops’ conferences will have to transform themselves into ecclesial conferences and future synods will be ‘ecclesial synods,’.”

Barreto says the synod on the Amazon’s final document was “approved by the pope.”

He sees this as “a revolution in the church”. Previously, each synod presented its recommendations or proposals to the pope, who would incorporate them into his post-synodal exhortation.

Pope Francis had other ideas for the Amazon synod; he presented the synod’s final document to the whole Church when he published his exhortation “Querida Amazonia,”.

“I have preferred not to cite the final document in this exhortation because I would encourage everyone to read it in full,” he said.

The final document emphasised the need for a new ecclesial body to promote synodality and shape a church with “an Amazonian face,” while seeking new paths for evangelization and for an integral ecology, says Bareto. The new Amazon ecclesial conference is that body.

It was officially created in 2020, as “an effective instrument” for implementing the proposals that emerged from the 2019 Synod on the Amazon and for giving life to “four great dreams” for the region expressed by Pope Francis in “Querida Amazonia,”his post-synodal exhortation.

The title “Querida Amazonia” “indicates an attitude of the church, which also corresponds to the desire of the Indigenous peoples, that the church be an ally of these peoples who have historically only been beaten in their lives and today suffer deforestation and the exploitation of the resources of their lands.”

It “manifests the Pope’s desire “to seek new paths for the church and new paths for an integral ecology” for the whole church, not only Amazonia, Barreto says.

He says the conference is developing an Amazonian rite as called for by the synod and is reflecting on “the experiences with Amazonian rites, liturgical expressions and spirituality.”

At present “We are in a process of dialogue with the Dicastery for Divine Worship … the first time ever that we have been able to dialogue with this dicastery in a fraternal way, in an attitude of listening.

The Amazon conference are “also discussing the question of ministries…their service in the church and, more specifically, the ministry of women.”

“We are living in a very special moment of the grace of God. It is a time of hope in the midst of a desperate, aimless humanity.”


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