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Pope Francis closes Amazon Synod

28 October 2019
An Indigenous woman hands Pope Francis a plant during the closing Mass of the Synod. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News.

 

Pope Francis: Amazon Synod involves everyone

Following the approval of the Final Document on Saturday 26 October, Pope Francis closes the work of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, and tells them “we are all winners when we carry out the Church’s pastoral work together.”

Pope Francis began his address to the Synod fathers and participants by summarising the four dimensions discussed at the Synod: cultural, ecological, social, and pastoral.

Beginning with the cultural dimension, the Pope said he was particularly pleased with the discussions regarding inculturation, evaluating and respecting cultures. Inculturation is a tradition of the Church, he said, recalling that the issue was addressed at the Puebla Conference 40 years ago.

Pope Francis then referred to the ecological dimension of the Synod’s deliberations. He paid tribute to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, saying he was one of the first to stimulate awareness of this issue. The inspiration to write the Encyclical, Laudato Si’, followed, said the Pope, and now ecological awareness is making headway.

Pope Francis went on to stress the importance of the Amazon, calling it a symbol. The future is at stake there, he said. “We have seen how many young people are demonstrating in favour of the Amazon,” said the Pope. Young people are aware of the ecological dangers ahead, not only in the Amazon but also in the Congo and in other places, like his own home in Argentina.

Pope Francis then addressed the social dimension examined at the Synod of Bishops. He noted how exploitation “does not just harm creation, but people.” The people of the Amazon have had to face brutal exploitation at every level, as well as the “destruction of their cultural identity,” he said. This includes human trafficking. When he was at Puerto Maldonado, in Peru, he noticed a sign at the airport alerting people against human trafficking, an indication of just how diffuse this reality is.

Turning to the pastoral dimension, the Pope confirmed that the proclamation of the Gospel is necessary and urgent, saying this dimension is the most important of the four. He added that the Gospel needs to be “understood, absorbed and assimilated by these cultures.” Priests, lay people, men and women religious, and permanent deacons can all contribute to strengthening the proclamation of the Gospel, said the Pope. Greater creativity needs to be applied with regard to new ministries, he continued. This includes studying the role of women and permanent deacons in the early Church. The Pope said he intends to pursue setting up a new commission together with the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People, Propaganda fide, for that purpose.

Pope Francis went on to note that, during the Synod, some things emerged that need reform. “The Church always needs reform,” he said. Starting with priestly formation, the Pope confirmed this is the responsibility of episcopal conferences and called for greater zeal among young religious. Their vocations are solid, but they need to be formed with apostolic zeal so they can go out to the peripheries.

Pope Francis said it would be a good idea for Vatican diplomats in training to spend one or two years in some challenging area of the world, at the service of a bishop in a mission territory. Another good reform, he said, would be to redistribute priests within a country.

It is often said there are many priests from the Amazon ministering in the United States and Europe. Others go somewhere to study and end up staying there. One bishop from Italy told him there are priests who will not go to mountain villages unless they are paid. Pope Francis called this a scandal and said we need to be zealous in bringing about a reform in these countries.

The Pope then spoke of the section in the document that deals with the role of women. He said the section was a bit short. “I would just like to underline this: we still have not realised what women mean in the Church.” We are only thinking about it from a functional point of view, said the Pope. “The role of women in the Church goes far beyond mere functionality,” he said.

The last part of the document touches on the issue of reorganisation. It mentions service structures like REPAM. The Pope referred to the existence of episcopal conferences, semi-episcopal conferences, and regional conferences in other parts of the world, and asked why the concept of smaller bishops’ conferences could not be applied in the Amazon.

Pope Francis said the Synod had also discussed rites and liturgies. “These fall under the responsibility of the Congregation for Divine Worship,” he said, which would examine proposals aimed at inculturation. Speaking of existing Rites in the Church, the Pope noted that they started off small and grew. We should not be afraid of these entities that have a special nature within Holy Mother Church. She is the “Mother of all who supports us on this pathway,” said the Pope.

With regard to an Organisation within the Roman Curia, the Pope said this is something that needs to be done, and that he will speak with Cardinal Turkson to open an “Amazon section” within the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The Pope then thanked all those “who worked outside this room,” including secretaries, the media, the broadcasting team, those who prepared the meetings, all those who contributed to what happened “behind the scenes,” making things work.

After thanking the Presidents, and General Secretariat of the Synod, Pope Francis said he wanted to express his gratitude in a special way to the communications media for disseminating the news of the Synod.

He asked that, when communicating the Final Document, the media focus on the diagnosis presented regarding the cultural, social, pastoral, and ecological dimensions discussed. Society needs to take this up as its own, he said. There is a danger of giving importance to specific groups, whereas the world needs to understand all four areas analysed. There are always people who want to focus on a small part of the document, said the Pope: the disciplinary or intra-ecclesiastical areas. They want to see who won and who didn’t. “We are all winners” when we carry out our pastoral work all together, said Pope Francis.

The Pope then referred to what he called the “elites,” Catholics or Christians who focus on the technicalities and forget the broader picture. He recited a line from Charles Péguy’s “Joint Note on Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy” (1914).

“Because they lack the courage to take up earthly affairs, they believe they are taking up God’s. Because they are afraid to be part of humanity, they think they are part of God. Because they love no one, they delude themselves into thinking they love God.”

Pope Francis said we cannot be the “prisoners of this select group” that pursues their own ends in this area of the Synod and “forget the major part of the Synod and the diagnosis that we have made.”

Pope at Synod Closing Mass: The prayer of the poor reaches the clouds

Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica for the closing of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. In his homily, he presents three models of prayer.

The Pope focused his reflections on three figures in this Sunday’s readings: a Pharisee, a tax collector, and a poor person. Each of them tells us something about how to pray, and suggests the kind of prayer that is “pleasing to God.”

Pope Francis said the Pharisee begins well by giving thanks to God, “because the best prayer is that of gratitude and praise.” Immediately afterwards, though, he adds he is grateful because he is “not like other men.” Filled with self-assurance “about his own ability to keep the commandments, his own merits and virtues, he is focused only on himself. He is without love,” said the Pope.

The Pharisee “ends up praising himself instead of praying,” continued Pope Francis. He stands in the temple of God, “but the one he worships is himself.” He forgets both God and his neighbour, considering others mere “leftovers” from which to keep one’s distance.

How many times do those in prominent positions “raise up walls to increase distances, making other people feel even more rejected,” despising their traditions, erasing their history, occupying their lands, and usurping their goods, asked the Pope. “How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today”?

“In the scarred face of the Amazon,” said Pope Francis, we have seen how “the mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth.” Worship of self continues hypocritically with its rites and prayers, he said, “forgetting the true worship of God which is always expressed in love of one’s neighbour.”

The Pope prayed for the grace “not to consider ourselves superior,” not to become “cynical and scornful.” Let us ask Jesus “to heal us of despising this or that person,” he said. “These things are displeasing to God.”

The prayer of the tax collector, on the other hand, “helps us understand what is pleasing to God,” said Pope Francis. He begins with his own shortcomings, admitting he is “poor before God.” He stands far off and beats his breast, because that is where the heart is. “His prayer is born from the heart,” said the Pope.

“To pray is to stand before God’s eyes, without illusions, excuses or justifications,” continued Pope Francis. “Darkness and lies come from the devil,” he added. “Light and truth come from God.”

Looking at the tax collector, said the Pope, we rediscover where to start: “from the conviction that we, all of us, are in need of salvation.” To consider ourselves righteous is to leave God “out in the cold,” he said.

We are all “a bit tax collectors because we are sinners and a bit Pharisees because we are presumptuous,” he said. “This may often work with ourselves, but not with God.” We do well to associate with the poor, said the Pope, “to remind ourselves that we are poor,” and that “the salvation of God operates only in an atmosphere of interior poverty.”

Finally, the prayer of the poor person, said the Pope, is one that “rises directly to God.” In the words of Sirach, “it will reach to the clouds.” The poor “did not put themselves ahead of others” in this life, explained Pope Francis. “They had their wealth in God alone,” and are “living icons of Christian prophecy.”

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region “had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and reflecting on the precariousness of their lives, threatened by predatory models of development,” said Pope Francis. The Synod also heard those who testified that it is possible to treat the created world “not as a resource to be exploited, but as a home to be preserved, with trust in God.”

The Pope concluded praying for the grace “to be able to listen to the cry of the poor: this is the cry of hope of the Church,” he said. “When we make their cry our own, our prayer too will reach to the clouds.”

Sources:

Vatican News – Pope Francis: Amazon Synod involves everyone

Vatican News – Pope at Synod Closing Mass: The prayer of the poor reaches the clouds

 

With thanks to Vatican News.`

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region was held in the Vatican from 6 to 27 October. For more information, click here.

 

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