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Querida Amazonia: a summary

13 February 2020
The head of the Macuxi ethnic group of northern Brazil's Roraima state speaks during a convention on the Amazon Synod. Image: AFP or licensors/Vatican News.

 

Splendor, drama, mystery: with these three words Pope Francis offers to the people of God and all persons of goodwill his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), on the special synod for the Amazon, which took place in Rome, October 6-27, 2019.[1]

READ: Querida Amazonia

With this synod, held at the heart of catholicity in Rome, the Church set out in search of prophecy, shifting its center of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic area and looking to a land full of gigantic political, economic and ecological contradictions.

Francis is seeking solutions that consider the rights of the original peoples, and that defend the cultural richness and natural beauty of the earth. And he seeks to support Christian communities with suitable pastoral solutions. In this regard, the engine of the exhortation – we immediately anticipate – is in the tenth paragraph of the fourth chapter, entitled “Expanding Horizons Beyond Conflicts.” When there are complex issues, the pope asks us to go beyond contradictions. When there are polarities and conflicts, we need to find new solutions, to break the impasse by looking for other better ways, perhaps not imagined before. Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff. It is always good to keep this in mind.

Pope Francis has again surprised the world with his long-awaited document (“Apostolic Exhortation”) in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod. He does not address the question of the ordination of mature married men to the priesthood as many had expected. Instead, in the text known as “Querida Amazonia” (“Beloved Amazonia,”) he pitches hard for justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests, against the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.

He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them. He devotes almost half of the document to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organization, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” that gives a greater role for the laity, and especially for women.

He emphasizes the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, at the same time, highlights the disturbing fact that this is not regularly available to so many communities; some do not have the Eucharist for months or years, others not “for decades” because of the shortage of priests. However, notwithstanding widespread expectations, Francis does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of suitable and esteemed married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod. He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it, not even in a footnote.

READ: Querida Amazonia

It should be stated clearly that his decision to not address the question of ordaining “viri probati” was not at all influenced by the Cardinal Sarah book to which Benedict XVI contributed, because as America learned Francis had already completed his exhortation on Dec. 27, weeks before anyone even knew of the existence of that work, except those directly involved. At the same time, Francis knew most of the senior Roman Curia officials at the synod, including Cardinals Ouellet, Filoni and Sarah, opposed any such opening, despite most of the region’s bishops being in favor.

 

Sources:

America – The Jesuit Review and Fr James Martin SJ – Five takeaways from ‘Querida Amazonia’

America – The Jesuit Review and Gerard O’Connell – What’s in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon synod?

La Civilta Cattolica and Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ – ‘Querida Amazonia’: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation

Michael Bayer

 

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