Participants at the Press Briefing for the Amazon Synod on Wednesday 16 October - © Vatican News

Vatican Press Briefing on Amazon Synod: October 16

Small-Group Discussions Continue at Halfway Point of Synod

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Following the morning session, the daily Synod press briefing focused on the unique spiritual dimension of the gathering, and its significance for the whole world, with speakers addressing topics such as our common responsibility in caring for the earth; the need for an integral human ecology; vocations; and the role of the laity, reported Vatican News.

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, summarized some the main topics “at the center of discernment” for the synod, including the Amazon region as a paradigm for the earth as our common home; a calling to ecological conversion; inculturation; access to the sacraments and education; ministries; migration; rural and urban life; international and multilateral engagement for human rights. He said participants at the Synod felt strongly the need to focus on an overall, unified vision, guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than getting caught up too much in details.

Fr Giacomo Costa emphasized once again that the Synodal path is very different from worldly gatherings. It is an experience marked not by discussions or debates, like a secular parliament, but rather has a spiritual dynamic, marked especially by fraternity. He spoke too about the abundance of “joy, trust, faith” that so far have characterized the assembly.

The first guest speaker, Ms. Yesica Patiachi Tayori, an indigenous woman from Peru, spoke about the role of native peoples as “guardians of the forest” while noting that caring for our common home is the responsibility of everyone. She said that her people are facing a real threat of extinction, and already have the experience of being discriminated against.

Bishop Ambrogio Spreafico spoke about the synod as an ecclesial event, with repercussions not only for the Pan-Amazon region but for the whole world. He mentioned the importance of an integral, human ecology, especially in light of Pope Francis’ teaching in Laudato sí, which he said has not been well understood.

The fraternal environment at the Synod was also mentioned as a highlight by Bishop Wellington Tadeu de Queiroz Vieira. He also spoke about the crisis of vocations, not only in Amazonia but around the world; and said that the question of vocations should not be primarily about celibacy, but about holiness.

Finally, Bishop Pedro José Conti of Brazil spoke about the role of the laity. He said they were not merely helpers of the clergy and religious, but had their own lay vocation, which he called an “antidote to clericalism”. Bishop Conti noted the importance of finding a balance in producing goods from the land, and emphasized the necessity of drawing from the “ancient wisdom of the native people”.

A question about the small group reports

Dr. Ruffini, asked about the small circles, said that the Press Office expects to be able to publish the reports of the groups on Friday afternoon.

A question about the statue used in ceremonies at the Vatican

One reporter asked about the symbolic significance of a statue that was used in the ceremony for the consecration of the Synod to St Francis, which took place in the Vatican Gardens. The statue has also been featured prominently throughout the Synod.

The representatives of the Holy See Press Office said they would find out more information about the statue and the artist who created it. They noted that the ceremony was organized by REPAM. Speaking in a personal capacity, Dr. Ruffini said the statue represented life.

A question about the indigenous Harakbut people

Ms. Tayori fielded a question about her own native people and recounted how they were exploited by those seeking rubber. She also spoke about a Dominican missionary who ministered among her people, and who fought for and with the Harakbut people. She said that but for that missionary, she would likely not be present to tell her story.

A question about the openness in the Synod, and about what was most moving in the first part of the Synod

Responding to a question about what was most moving at the Synod, Bishop Conti said what struck him most was the opportunity to hear from the indigenous peoples and the freedom with which they spoke about their own experiences. He said it is the children who will save the environment, and particularly the children of the indigenous people.

He said we must be united with one another, and grow in fraternity and solidarity with others, and said it was a beautiful time for communion within the Church.

Bishop de Queiroz Vieira said one of the most significant moments in the synod is the availability to live diversity in unity. That, he said, is based on brotherhood, which is led by and modeled by Pope Francis.

Following along the same lines, Bishop Spreafico also praised the humility of Pope Francis as a model. He said the way in which we listen to pain; this is a time in which we listen to pain, and share it.

A question about the role of women

Bishop de Quieroz Vieria, in response to a question about the role of women, said that the presence of women is essential in the Church. He highlighted their role in missionary work, catechesis, liturgy, in caring for the poor and in caring for children. He said the Church and the world must recognize the value of women, noting there are places where women are discriminated against.

He said that with regard to the question of opening the diaconate to women, Bishop de Quieroz Vieria said that question was already the subject of study, and that in the meantime, the value of women should be recognized.

Bishop Spreafico noted that many pastoral projects in his own diocese are led by women, and spoke of the important role women play in the Church.

Bishop Conti said the Brazilian Bishops Conference was moving in this direction and reiterated the words of his brother Bishops that are essential to enhance the role of women.

A question about opportunities for laymen and women

Another reporter asked Bishop Conti what he envisions as possibilities for a Church not only with an Amazonian face but with a lay face. The Bishop said that the path to fuller participation on the part of the laity is a process that is going forward. He emphasized the need for formation for laypeople in their own special callings.

Bishop de Queiroz Vieria emphasized that the Church is made up not only of Bishops but of all the baptized. He noted that the Synod was called precisely in order for the Bishops to make decisions in consultation with all.

A question about what a representative Synod would look like

Asked about whether Bishops were satisfied with the representation of women in the Synod, Bishop de Queiroz Vieria emphasized the unique composition and role of a Synod. He said it is not simply a matter of numerical representation, but that in this particular ecclesial context, the representation in the Synod is significant.

Bishop Conti insisted that we are experiencing a Synodal Church, and that little by little, the Church can be expected to open new paths. He suggested that more spaces will be opened to women in the future.

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