Details of the final document dominated the last of the Synod press briefings in the Holy See Press Office on Saturday evening, October, 26, 2019. The two guests on the podium responded to journalists’ questions and shared their own insights on the main themes that emerged. Vatican
Bishop David Martìnez De Aguirre Guinea is Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Maldonado in Peru. He said one of the strongest themes to come out of the Synod was inculturation, how to harmonize local cultures with the Church. He also said it was important for indigenous people to reclaim their role as protagonists. The final document reflects the concerns of the local bishops for their territory, he said, but that the Church allies herself with the people of the Amazon Region in defense of their land and of life.
The Bishop described one of the strongest images of the Synod as being that of Pope Francis interacting personally with the indigenous people present. He said he returns to the Amazon hopeful and encouraged.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, is Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He began by echoing the words of the Pope in thanking the media for helping the Synod to reach the people. Cardinal Czerny thanked journalists for their “energy, interest and efforts”, helping the Synod to speak and to be heard.
Referring to the final document, the Cardinal focused on the word “conversion”, saying it responds to the title of the Synod itself: “New Paths for the Church and for Integral Ecology”. Without conversion there are no new paths, said Cardinal Czerny. We just repeat what we have done before, “but with no real change”.
When the world saw the Amazon burning, people realized we have to change, he said. New paths happen when there are new ways to face old problems, through change and “conversion”, he added.
The first conversion is pastoral: meaning the way the Church acts with the people. The Church is always trying to do better, said Cardinal Czerny, but conditions are changing so we cannot continue doing things the way we have.
The second conversion is cultural. “Differences need to be embraced and respected”, said the Cardinal, and the Church must learn to be interculturally respectful. Divisions and tension, he said, are getting worse.
The third is ecological conversion. “Ecology” may be fashionable, said Cardinal Czerny, but we have not grasped the gravity of the situation. The current ecological crisis is so deep, “if we don’t change we won’t make it”, he said.
Cardinal Czerny described the fourth conversion in the word “Synodal”: something that helps us learn how to be better Church, how to move forward together, and how to involve people in that movement. Forms of democracy have failed us in finding a way forward, he said. A Synod, instead, is based on “listening, reflecting, and praying”. The Church hopes this model may assist others too.
Journalists’ questions covered a variety of topics related to the Synod final document, ranging from women deacons to ecological sins, and the question of what happens now. With regard to the latter, Bishop David Guinea stressed the important work that was done in preparation for the Synod. He called it “a process that cannot be stopped”, but said it would be important to build networks in order to confront the problems of the Amazon Region together.
Women in the Church
The role of women and the question of women deacons was raised several times. Cardinal Czerny responded with a reflection on what Pope Francis had said earlier in his closing remarks: namely, that people tend to think of women in the Church in terms of “functions”, what they can or cannot do. We must not reduce the vocation and contribution of women in the church to functions, said the Cardinal.
When it comes to the question of women deacons, Cardinal Czerny clarified how the Church respects “different levels of authority”: there are issues decided at the parish level, others at the diocesan level, some with the bishops’ conference, and others higher still. The issue of women deacons “is not within the scope of the Synod for the Amazon”, said the Cardinal. It must be reflected on at a different level.
The question of “ecological sins” is addressed in Paragraph #82 of the Synod final document. Bishop David Guinea stressed our obligation to “listen to the cry of the earth”. He spoke of how missionaries in the Amazon Region have to confront the effects of exploitation, toxic pollution, and contamination.
The proposal to set up a socio-environmental observatory, added Cardinal Czerny, would help people in the area understand the phenomena better and be able to respond on a regional basis.
Finally, Cardinal Czerny responded to a question about the contribution of scientists and experts at the Synod. “They translated the suffering that we experience and witness, into data, hypothesis, and proposals”, he said. The scientists spoke of the urgent need to address the suffering of our planet, and helped us to feel how badly things are going”, he added. They also helped translate our concerns into hope because there are practical and reasonable solutions at hand. These are not about more technology, said the Cardinal. The Amazon will prosper “if trees keep standing and water keeps flowing”, he said, and this will mean hope for the Amazon “and for us all”.