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Pan-Amazon Synod. Opening New Pathways.

A vast consultation process involving many communities in Amazonia. A new way of being Church. Respecting ‘Our common home’. The role of women.  Speaking with Mexican Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, executive secretary of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and member of the Pre-Synod Council.

At six months from the Pan-Amazon Synod. How are the
preparations going?

Forty five territorial Synod assemblies have been held which brought together the 106 ecclesiastical circumscriptions of the nine countries of the Amazonia region, using the ‘popular version’ of the preparatory Document.

Mauricio Lopez Oropeza.

As members of REPAM, we are studying some sensitive problems (human rights, peoples in voluntary isolation, women’s concerns etc.) by means of thematic forums assisted by local experts, a meeting with 35 religious congregations on the role of consecrated life and two international forums, one socio-political and the other more theological, because this may be a special Synod for Amazonia but it is also universal. It may seem to be about a particular territory but it aspires to generating reflection by the whole Church, since the future of our planet, including the stabilisation of the climate, depends on biomes like Amazonia and because the model of consumption, the culture of disposable goods and the increasing inequalities in the world directly affect it. The results of the consultations will be brought together in April with the Instrumentum laboris, which will be sent to all Synod participants who will have six months to prepare for it.

What should we expect from the Synod in Amazonia?

There are great expectations. It is seen as urgent to leave behind traditional models of Church. We believe the Pan-Amazonia Synod will be courageous. We at REPAM have tried not to create illusions but, at the same time, we have encouraged people to speak freely and with courage.

In the assemblies and meetings what are the themes that aroused most interest?

First of all, care for ‘Our common home’, with a more global awareness of the environmental dangers to Amazonia and the planet, evidencing the need to place ‘Laudato Si’ at the centre of Church pastoral. Then comes the defence, accompaniment and promotion of original peoples, underlining the importance of respecting identity not only by inculturating the Christian faith but by means of intercultural dialogue, valuing spirituality as something that enriches Catholicism.

Lastly, the impact of the global consumption model, determined by the north of the planet, on Amazonia. On the inter-church level, there is the clear emergence of the theme of ‘ministeriality’ which must be reconsidered starting from the concrete reality of Amazonia, where the continuity of the presence of the Church comes into play.

Was there much talk of an Amazonia-style Church?

“This is an expression made popular by Pope Francis. It implies a Church that assumes the values, identity, the struggles of the indigenous cultures and does not pursue the perpetuation of a western ecclesial model, but incorporates the populations in the shared construction of communitarian expressions of life in line with the project of the Kingdom in the context of Amazonia. To achieve this, it would be necessary to change the model of formation in seminaries in this perspective of respect for cultures, the adoption of their spirituality and intercultural dialogue.

When Pope Francis visited Puerto Maldonado on 19 January 2018, he said to the representatives of the indigenous peoples, “Help your bishops, your missionaries and your priests! Explain to them what you need and what you propose and incorporate the best of your rich traditions and your ancestral wisdom in the conformation of a Church with an Amazonian face”. Of course, it is necessary to take account of the diversity of the peoples of Amazonia, but there must be a common attention to their cultures, the study of their languages and the promotion of education which respects their identity and of ritual, symbolic and liturgical expressions that enhance their life of faith.

Women have an important role in the Church of Amazonia

In Amazonia it is the women, both religious and lay who, in daily life, accompany the life, the hopes, the sorrows and the struggles of the peoples, and promote the faith in the most isolated villages. In the pre-Synod meetings, the women, including religious women, repeatedly said that they are not interested in a patriarchal priesthood as it is now, but they want their role to be legitimised and recognised. The way this is to be done must be sought in the Synod process, respecting the guidance of the universal Church but without being afraid to open new pathways because, without changes, these Catholic communities will weaken as will the defence of their lives and their lands. I believe we must start with what the situation shows us, asking ourselves what is unchangeable, if it really is so, and what may open up the possibility for the sacramental ratification of an already current practice. It is a matter of conferring ministerial recognition on women who are already a sign of the presence of Christ in the communities.

We know the eyes of all are on this Synod since what applies to Amazonia might also apply elsewhere. Every effort will be made to engage in serious, profound and responsible discernment of the situation and of possible horizons, formulating freely, courageously and openly, proposals that are based on the necessity of accompanying the possibilities of the Kingdom of God, of life in abundance, as a dream of another possible world. We do not wish to be imprisoned by a too legalistic approach that may make us neglect what reality teaches us and how we should respond to it. It is my hope that this Synod may offer light so that others may follow their own path in this direction. This time is a kairos of God, so we must not be afraid to formulate proposals that are courageous and rooted in reality, trusting in the Holy Spirit to whom the last word belongs.(M.C.)

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