“It is moving forward that makes the Church loyal to its true tradition. Traditionalism, which remains linked to the past, is one thing, but true tradition, which is the Church’s living history, is something else through which every generation, accepting what has been handed down by previous generations, such as understanding and experiencing faith in Jesus Christ, enriches this tradition in current times with their own experience and understanding of faith in Jesus Christ.”
These words were a key theme in the introductory report by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy and General Relator of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Amazonia. Cardinal Hummes presented his report on October 7, 2019, during the synod’s first general session.
He continued by noting the remarkable work of the Church in Amazonia, including many missionaries and martyrs. But he warned about an ongoing lack of resources to evangelize.
“In this synod, it is right to remember, acknowledge and exalt the heroic history, and often martyrdom, of all the missionaries of the past as well as those who are today in Pan-Amazonia,” the Cardinal reminded the synod participants. “In addition to missionaries, there have also always been many lay and indigenous leaders who provided heroic testimony and were often killed, as still happens today. Furthermore, one cannot forget that the missionary Church of Amazonia distinguished itself – and still does today – for the great and essential services provided to local populations in terms of schools, health care, the fight against poverty and human rights violations.
“On the other hand, the history of the Church in Pan-Amazonia shows us that there has always been a great lack of material resources and not enough missionaries for the full development of a community with, in particular, an almost total absence of the Eucharist and other sacraments essential for daily Christian life.”
Cardinal Hummes noted that many consultations with people throughout the Amazon were held in advance of the synod. He noted the many issues that arose:
(a) criminalization and assassination of leaders and defenders of the territory;
(b) appropriation and privatization of natural goods such as water itself;
(c) both legal logging concessions and illegal logging;
(d) predatory hunting and fishing, mainly in rivers;
(e) mega-projects: hydroelectric and forest concessions, logging for monoculture production, construction of roads and railways, or mining and oil projects;
(f) pollution caused by the entire extractive industry that causes problems and diseases, especially among children and young people;
(g) drug trafficking;
(h) the resulting social problems associated with these threats such as alcoholism, violence against women, sex work, human trafficking, loss of original culture and identity (language, spiritual practices, and customs), and all conditions of poverty to which the peoples of the Amazon are condemned.
In light of these many challenges, he concluded by proposing several themes to be addressed during the synod:
a) The outgoing Church and its new pathways in Amazonia;
b) The Church’s Amazonian face: inculturation and interculturality in a missionary-ecclesial context;
c)Ministries in the Church in Amazonia: presbyterate, diaconate, ministries, and the role played by women;
d) The work done by the Church in looking after our “shared home”; listening to the earth and to the poor; integral environmental, economic, social and cultural ecology;
e) The Amazonian Church in the urban reality;
f) The issues concerning water;