Vatican Presents Initiative to Protect Amazon

Amazon Territory Covers 6 Million Square Kilometers, Is Home to Nearly 3 Million Indigenous People

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“In response to important challenges,” Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson has highlighted, “REPAM was born.”

During a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the president of the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace made this statement, noting the network’s commitment to defend the life of a number of communities, who cumulatively comprise 30 million people.

In addition to the dicastery president, the others speaking at today’s conference included Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru and president of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Episcopal Council; Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis; and Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, executive secretary of REPAM. Although unable to be present, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Commission for Amazonia of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, participated via an audio message.

The people of the Amazon “are threatened by pollution, the radical and rapid change of the ecosystem upon which they depend, and the lack of protection for their basic human rights,” Cardinal Turkson said.

The largest tropical forest in the world, the Amazon territory covers 6 million square kilometers. It includes the territories of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil and is home to 2,779,478 indigenous people.

Made up of nearly 400 indigenous tribes, the Amazon’s people speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families.

The REPAM initiative began in September 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil, during a meeting of bishops whose territories include Amazon regions, priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon jungle, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies.

Cardinal Turkson discussed three main characteristics of the network.

The first, he said, is transnationality. “The large number of countries involved is due to the awareness that effective action to face challenges that cross the borders of a single state requires synergy between the living forces of all the nations involved, from the Secretariat of the REPAM to that of the dioceses and other Church initiatives in the various states.

He stressed this coordination is to be done “without forgetting that, from the beginning, the REPAM has worked in harmony with the Holy See, CELAM and its structures.”

The second was ecclesiality, which involves not only working transatlantically, but also “instituting harmonious collaboration between the various components of the Church,” including religious congregations, dioceses, Caritas, various Catholic associations and foundations, and lay groups.

The third feature, he added, is commitment to the defense of life.

Cardinal Turkson also explained that the network is presented in Rome to give visibility to REPAM and highlighted how it aims to serve as a global model.

“The form in which REPAM, acting as a platform, is structured and defines its working methods, its agenda, its allies or its methods of accreditation,” he said, “could serve as a model for other local churches in other countries facing similar challenges.”

In addition, he said, REPAM “has been conceived so as to become a tool that may be applied in different basic contexts.” Among these contexts, he said, are justice, legality, the promotion and protection of human rights; cooperation between the Church and public institutions at various levels; conflict prevention and management; research and spread of information; inclusive and equitable economic development; responsible and equitable use of natural resources, respecting Creation; and the preservation of the traditional cultures and ways of life of the different populations.

When asked by ZENIT whether or how this initiative would be affected or involved if there is a new office dedicated to the environment, His Eminence did not elaborate, but reaffirmed that the cardinals have put “strong emphasis” on the environment and ecology in their discussions on Church reform this February. He noted that if there is a dicastery which would merge different pontifical councils, including Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants, and others, the environment would be a very important part of its work.


On the NET:

Official REPAM Website (in Spanish):

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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