Meeting With Amazonian Indians In Peru © Vatican Media

‘The Pan-Amazonia Region Is a Laboratory for Society and for the Church,’ says Sister Nathalie Becquart

Reading of the Working Instrument of the Synod for Amazonia

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Pope Francis announced the Synod on Amazonia on October 15, 2017, with the main objective being to “find new ways  for the Evangelization of this portion of the People of God, in particular, the Indians, often forgotten and deprived of the prospect of a serene future, notably because of the crisis touching the Amazonian forest, lung of capital importance for our planet,” recalls Xaverian Sister Nathalie Becquart, Consultant for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, published on July 15, 2019, on the site “Catholic Universal Mission,” a presentation of the Synod for Amazonia’s  Working Instrument — a Synod that “concerns us all.” “The Pan-Amazonian Region, Laboratory for Society and for the Church,” titles Sister Nathalie Becquart.
The Synod will be held at Rome from October 6 to 27, 2019, with the theme ”New Ways for the Church and for An Integral Ecology.” This document — the Instrumentum Laboris” (IL) – constitutes a stage in a “process of discernment”: it’s not a point of arrival.
 Preparation of a Synod
 Sister Nathalie Becquart recalls that the original of the Working Instrument was written in Spanish[1] and that this Special Assembly for Pan-Amazonia involves specifically the dioceses of nine countries, however, “all of them concern us.” The subjects to be addressed are: ‘Inculturation, integral ecology, migrations, urban evangelization, new ministries . . . touching also questions of a universal dimension.”
She recalls Pope Francis’ choice,[2] attentive to the geographic and existential peripheries” and ”to the major challenge of integral ecology,” which includes humanity and not only the “common home”: “important source of oxygen,” “reserves of bio-diversity” and “sweet waters” but also “diverse populations” that are “threatened by dangers of all sorts.” Therefore, the Synod will listen to “these populations with the desire that they be more subjects and protagonists by being more committed to their side in a prophetic way.”
She also recalls the approach of the preparation for a Synod: a coming and going of consultations and questions and responses between Rome and the local Churches up to the composition of this basic working document  “fruit of a wide survey. It reflects “the clamor of these peoples and the clamor of a land increasingly menaced. It also gives an account of questions, sites, and suggestions proposed so that in these places the Church takes on more of an Amazonian and prophetic face in order to highlight the principal social and ecological challenges of this territory.”
The Document’s Three Sections
 She recalls the writing of the document in three parts, in paragraph 4. “The Instrumentum Laboris is made up of three parts: the first, to look and listen; it is entitled “The Voice of Amazonia” and its objective is to present the reality of the territory and its populations. In the second part, “Integral Ecology”: the clamor of the land and of the poor, the ecological and pastoral problem is addressed and,  in the third part, ,”Prophetic Church in Amazonia: Challenges and Hopes, the Ecclesiological and Pastoral Questions,” they are in sum “the three conversions to which Pope Francis invites us: pastoral conversion, to which he calls us in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (to look and to listen); the ecological conversion described in the Encyclical Laudato Si’, which gives the heading (judge-act); and conversion to ecclesial synodality thanks to the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio, which structures this ‘walking together’ (judge-act). All this is a dynamic process of listening and discernment of new ways by which the Church in Amazonia will proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the coming years.” (IL[3] paragraph 5).
At the Service of An Integral Human Ecology
 The first part “attempts to read the signs of the times by posing on the Amazonian reality (territory and people where God works) a look of faith”: “It puts in the light the “seeds of the Word,” which go across these cultures but also the many threats and dramas that put this region in danger.” Therefore, “the Church urges a cry of alarm,” explains the author. She recalls the parable heard last Sunday. “Therefore, the Church feels called to take the look of the “Samaritan:” to defend the life of these populations and to combat the exploitation of this territory, increasingly wounded and it is by an approach of integral ecology, because in Amazonia, the territory and the peoples are profoundly linked (Nature makes a whole with man).[4] It is why the conception of life of these populations, structured around the search to “live well,”[5] joins the approach of an integral ecology.
A Synod that “Concerns Us All”
 The second part continues this “process of discernment.” It’s by seeing what it is that “makes an obstacle to life” and of” taking the measure of urgency of an integral ecological conversion (Cf. Chapter 9), which implies “unlearning, learning and relearning (paragraph 102)” in order to restore adjusted relations of respect and reciprocity between man and nature,[6] between human beings, between man and God. “
“This part then enters in detail in very concrete Amazonian situations to propose practical suggestions, which will be discussed at the Synod”: yes, it’s necessary to recall it. The “Working Instrument” just proposes elements to the discussion of the world’s Bishops, beginning from the “photograph” of the situation. And likewise the Synod’s discussion doesn’t loop the loop: it is the Pope who then knots the sheaf with a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
Sister Nathalie Becquart also notes the points on which the Synod for Amazonia “concerns us all.” At stake also in Amazonia are more global phenomena, such as the migrations[7] addressed in chapter 3, urbanization (chapter 4), the transformation of the family (chapter 5) corruption (chapter 6) health (chapter 6), education (chapter 7). The analyses and suggestions proposed will thus clarify and echo what is happening in other regions of the world. “
For a New Evangelization with Young People
 “The third part entitled “Prophetic Church in Amazonia: Challenges and Hope,” addresses pastoral and ecclesiological questions in a perspective clearly posed, that of inculturation and of interculturality,” explains Sister Nathalie Becquart, who adds: “On stressing that “Evangelization is a testing ground for the Church and for society” (IL Paragraph 106), this Synod is finally situated altogether in the same line as the preceding one on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” In fact, one rediscovers here the key question of evangelization in cultures.”
She specifies the approach: “Just as the Synod of October 2018 sought to put in light what makes possible an inculturated evangelization in the world of young people, which calls for learning their codes and languages and for taking into account the anthropological, social and cultural changes that affect them, so the Church’s mission in Amazonia requires a creative, courageous, and daring approach for the advent of “a Church with an Amazonian and missionary face” (Chapter 1). The challenges proper to the Amazonian realities and populations also touch, in fact, important sites of the universal Church. Because it’s about no more and no less than aiding the Church of Amazonia to come out of a “tradition made of mono-cultural colonialism, of clericalism and of domination” to “discern and assume without fear the different cultural expressions of peoples” (IL paragraph 110).”
She argues that “one of the major issues of this Synod, focused on a particular region is, in fact, the much more global issue of inculturation and of the decentralization of the Church, central <point> of Francis’ pontificate.”
In sum, “The Church, called to become Church that goes forth, to turn to the peripheries, must take the face of a polyhedric communion rich in diverse expressions. The tracks drawn here are those of the Synodal Church: a Church that listens, a Church in dialogue, a missionary Church, a welcoming Church, a participatory Church, a creative Church, a harmonious Church, an inculturated Church (notably by proposing a greater inculturation of the liturgy with indigenous peoples), a Church engaged with the poorest that fights against injustices.”
Suggestions for the Discussion at the Synod
Sister Nathalie addresses the passage most covered by the media, in chapter 4 on “The Organization of Communities.” It is there that suggestions are evoked in the list proposing the possibility of “proceeding to the priestly Ordination of older persons, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, even if they have a constituted and stable family, in order to guarantee the possibility of offering the Sacraments that accompany and sustain Christian life.” (IL paragraph 129.a). And a bit further on, the invitation to “identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role that they play today in the Amazonian Church.” (IL paragraph 129.b), which could continue to open the debate on the feminine diaconate.”
However, Sister Nathalie invites not to reduce the document to these suggestions. “This part on the new ministries insists also more generally on the role of the laity (their formation, participation, and co-responsibility), the role of women (with the request that women be heard, consulted and participate in the taking of decisions), the role of consecrated life[8] (on proposing to promote an alternative and prophetic, inter-congregational, inter-institutional consecrated life) and the role of young people (with whom it is urgent to dialogue) (Paragraph 129.3e).”
She also stresses that chapter 5 concerns “evangelization in the cities.” It “invites to re-think the ecclesial structures and to work more on pastoral synergy.
The ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is the object of chapter 6 with “the rise in power of the Evangelical Churches” in the region, and chapter 7 concerns “the mission of the means of communication”: “key elements of evangelization and of the sensitization  to ecological conversion.”
Chapter 8 addresses “the prophetic role of the Church and integral human promotion.” “The engagement in favor of the poorest[9] and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples are an integral part of evangelization.”
Accompany the Synod
 Sister Nathalie Becquart concludes that “this Synod on Amazonia, putting as it does the focus on a specific region, which is strategic for the future of the planet, concerns us all because, in the end, it touches global and vital issues for the safeguarding of our common home.” “It also concentrates on key questions and major sites for the Church in today’s globalized and fragmented world in tension between forces of life and forces of death. Therefore, we are invited to pray especially for this Synod and to deepen and follow up on its reflections and works, and to mobilize ourselves largely to follow and accompany this Synod.”
[1] All the documents and information can be found on the Vatican’s official site dedicated to the Synod on Amazonia.
[2] It is the Region that includes part of Brazil, as well as of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela. Surinam, Guyana and French Guyana, covering a surface of 7.8 million square kilometers with 34 million inhabitants, three million being Indians belonging to over 390 ethnic groups.
[3] IL is the abbreviation for Instrumentum Laboris thereafter in the article
[4] “The defense of life implies the defense of the territory, of its resources and natural goods, but also the life and culture of the peoples, which passes by the reinforcement of their organization, the fulfillment of their rights and the possibility of being heard.”
[5] See IL paragraph 2: The search for life in abundance with the indigenous Amazonian peoples is concretized in what they call to “live well.” [4]. It’s about living in “harmony with oneself, with nature, with human beings, and with the Supreme Being, because an inter-relationship exists between all the elements of the cosmos, where no one excludes anyone and in which it is possible to forge among all a plan of life in fullness.”
[6] “A fundamental aspect of the root of human sin is to detach oneself from nature and not recognize that it is part of oneself and of exploiting without limits, thus breaking the original alliance of the human being with Creation and with God (Genesis 3:5). (IL paragraph 99).”
[7] “Amazonia figures among the regions of greatest internal and international mobility in Latin America. The causes are socio-political, climatic, ethnic (persecution) and economic” (IL paragraph 64).
[8] “The Latin American and Caribbean peoples expect much from consecrated life [. . . which shows] the maternal face of the Church. Their ardent desire to listen, to welcome and to serve, their witness of alternative values of the Kingdom, show that a new Latin American and Caribbean society, founded on Christ, is possible” (DA p. 224). Therefore, it is proposed to promote an alternative and prophetic, inter-congregational, inter-institutional consecrated life with a readiness to go there where no one wants to be and with those that no one wants to be with. To support the insertion and itinerary of consecrated persons, men, and women, to be with the poorest and the excluded, and to plead for them politically to transform the reality. To propose to men and women religious who come from outside to be ready to share the local life with their heart, their head, their hands in order to unlearn the pre-established models, recipes, schemes and structures, to learn the languages, cultures, traditions of wisdom, visions of the world and indigenous mythologies. Taking into account the pastoral urgencies and in face of the temptation of immediate activism, it is recommended to dedicate time to learning the language and of the culture, in order to be able to weave bonds and develop an integral pastoral <program>.  It would be good for the formation to religious life to include processes of formation pivoting on interculturality, inculturation, and dialogue between the Amazonian spiritualities and visions of the world. It will be necessary to give priority to the needs of the local populations rather than to those of Religious Congregations.
[9] “The Spirit speaks in the voice of the poor; it’s the reason the Church must listen to them, they are a theological place. On listening to their pain, silence becomes necessary to be able to hear the voice of the Spirit of God” (IL paragraph 144).

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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