“At no time was celibacy called into question,” stressed Cardinal Pedro Barreto. “Let this be very clear: celibacy is a gift of God for the Church and it’s going to be kept.”
Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno, President Delegate of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region, Vice-President Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network and Archbishop of Huancayo, clarified this in an exclusive interview with Zenit.
“What has been talked about is the possibility that married persons be able to receive Priestly Ordination — they are two different things,” continued the Jesuit.
Proposed in point 11 of the Synod’s Final Document — point that received the least consensus in the voting — is “to ordain as priests suitable and recognized men of the community, who have a fruitful Permanent Diaconate and receive appropriate formation for the Presbyterate, being able to have a legitimately constituted and stable family, to support the life of the Christian community through preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazonian region.”
“The Vatican, the Basilica, with Saint Peter’s tomb has been ‘Amazonianized.’” Cardinal Barreto was moved by the image of Pope Francis, next to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, surrounded by Amazonian Indians, with their own clothing and walking together to Paul VI Hall. “I had the privilege of being very close to the Pope and of seeing these faces, which ‘Amazonianized’ us,” he said.
The Pope “Goes Ahead”
On Monday, October 28, 2019, a day after the closing of the Synod for the Amazonian Region, Cardinal Barreto offered a talk/discussion at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association in Italy, located in the center of Rome.
In a conversation with journalists, the Peruvian Synodal Father said: “In general we Bishops, Catholics had the impression of pushing the Church and the Pope a bit . . . of pushing him on new paths, but we realized that the Pope is far ahead of us. He is driving the renewal of the Church. ‘We don’t want patches, we want new wine in new wineskins.” This is what he insists upon. “
This formulation of the ecological sin “is the expression of what we say in the creed of our faith,” shared the President Delegate of the Special Amazonian Synod. “I believe in God the Father, Creator of Heaven and earth.” “What happens is that we always say it without realizing it, and if God is Creator of Heaven and earth, we have to take care of what God has given us. Therefore, this formulation has now been opened but, deep down, it’s something that was inherent, although we weren’t conscious of this ecological sin.”
The Cardinal clarified that “ecology is harmony”: “Harmony with other brothers and sisters, and harmony with nature,” and he warned: ”when this harmonious relationship is broken it’s a sin. Sin is to sever the relationship with God, to sever the relationship with brothers and to sever the relationship with nature.”
Cardinal Barreto explained that there was a proposal on the Amazonian Region: “We have to see some rites that express the cultures — not the culture, — but the cultures in the whole of Amazonia. This is a process that, since her beginning, the Catholic Church has made an effort to respond to different socio-cultural realms.”
The Archbishop of Huancayo commented: “there is an effort to respect the cultures, but also to offer the joy of the Gospel to all creatures. “Go out to the whole world,” says Jesus.” Thus, the Cardinal assured, what the Pope said “referring to the organizational part, is the creation of a semi-Episcopal Conference, he did not say a siu iuris church.”
Women in the Church
“If women cease to do what they are doing, the Church wouldn’t exist, and it wouldn’t exist because the Virgin Mary, a woman, is at the base.” Therefore, explained the Jesuit, “the visibility of women is also almost similar to the visibility of the native populations in the whole of our Continent, not only in Amazonia.”
“The topic was touched upon, but Pope Francis himself felt that perhaps it wasn’t touched upon in great depth, no?” he added. “The testimonies of indigenous women in the Hall speak to us in fact of very great strength and contribution. We have to continue working on that.” The Cardinal expressed his “gratitude and recognition of <women>,” as the Pope <also> pointed out.
“I personally, and many of us were hurt by the lack of respect in Rome of some groups that didn’t have the most minimal sense of good behavior. To come in, steal and hurl those images into the river was a slap, given the intolerance they manifested.”
“I believe that there is here something that this Synod teaches us which is respect for the cultures, and the universal Catholic Church must be God’s answer to each of the cultures with their rites, and to proclaim the Gospel from <them>.” (. . . )”Jesus, the Son of God, was incarnate in a culture, and He assumed that culture, the religious women of the culture, the icons that were there, but with a critical attitude.”
Here is a translation of the exclusive interview that Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno granted to Zenit.
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–Q: You already knew well the reality of the Amazonian peoples before coming to Rome for the Synod. What have you learned over these days, taking part in the Synodal Special Assembly?
–Cardinal Barreto: First, a discovery of human persons, especially of the Amazonian Indians. In this year and a half — almost two years — of preparation, there has been much participation by the Indians. I was surprised how, after two days of being rather calm, listening, they began to talk, not only from their mind but also from their heart and, above all, with great determination. I took part in this conversion that they had, because they have converted to humanity, and the Catholic Church, through Pope Francis, has made very, very significant gestures to manifest clearly that we are all in one family.
–Q: Proposed in the Report of the Italian Minor Circle A, was that the subject of celibacy be studied in an Ordinary Synod, with universal openness. What is your opinion on this?
–Cardinal Barreto: In fact, it must be specified that at no time, in no Circle, was celibacy called into question. This must be very clear: celibacy is a gift of God for the Church and it’s going to be kept. What has been spoken about is the possibility that married persons might receive Priestly Ordination; they are two different things. However, the most significant of this synodal experience was to put ourselves in an attitude of listening, in this case, to Amazonia and its peoples, to listen also to nature and to God’s creation, and to listen to God. This is a process we are initiating. The previous ones — I took part in one of them — were more thematic, so there was theological, doctrinal reflection . . . this one <did not do that>. This was a Synod — the first in the history of the Church — which was concerned with a territory, a region, but at the same time, with those that live in the region. In regard to the subject of Priestly Ordination to married men <who are> Deacons, it was said that it could be studied, but we focused on the Pan-Amazonian Region.
–Q: Perceived, on reading the Document, is the desire to give impetus and responsibility to the Indian leaders themselves, to the Amazonian communities themselves, so that they begin to build. What challenges do you think they face?
–Cardinal Barreto: First, respect of their dignity as persons. They are not taken into account in decisions, for example, of investment. People enter the territory because, in reality, the owners of the land are the Brazilian states. So, for centuries the Indians have lived in a territory and suddenly, a company arrives and destroys everything. This is the first great challenge: respect for the human person’s dignity.
The territory is in the second place. The Indians do not own the territory, so they are living at the expense of these governmental decisions that must be taken into account in a State of Law, but the territory is one of the aspects that is definitively a challenge.
And the third great challenge is the challenge that exists within the Church, which is how to evangelize a territory that has 7.5 million square kilometers. For instance, it is said that Italy has 302,000 square kilometers, compared with the 7 million square kilometers of Amazonia. If on one hand, we know very well from Theological Doctrine that the Eucharist builds, constructs the Church, there are communities that for one year or two or more, don’t have the celebration of the Eucharist. Therefore, why not answer this spiritual clamor, also for the celebration of the Eucharist, to consolidate the Christian community. This is one of the challenges.
–Q: How is the institution of new ecclesial ministries in the Pan-Amazonian Region going to be developed henceforth? What is the process the Church will have to follow?
–Cardinal Barreto: Yes, it’s logical that in a process of renewal and response to new situations, there must be new pathways, such as the topic Pope Francis proposed, but it’s important to realize that a Synod isn’t a Parliament. We, Bishops, who took part don’t represent the country; we represent this Episcopal College whose mission is to accompany the native populations and those that are taking part in the Synod.
And another thing that is very important is that the Document is not a definitive document, it’s only a document of proposals, with motivation, but the decision will be Pope Francis’. It is he who makes the decisions, but he does so exercising also that synodal attitude that he wanted of listening to the Synodal Fathers and placing himself also in the sense of the faith that is present in the people, because we, who took part, have received in this year and a half of preparation, many fundamental teachings from the native peoples and from those that live in the Amazonian region.
A special commission had been established to put these guidelines into practice and we hope — the Pope said it — that, possibly, before the end of the year, we will have his Apostolic Exhortation. With this Exhortation, the Pope picks up the proposals but, now, puts us on the path of commitment, and a very clear commitment at that.
–Q: Is the feminine diaconate necessary in the Amazonian Region?
–Cardinal Barreto: My own experience is that in the Archbishopric of Huancayo, in the Andes, I am not in Amazonia directly, there are women religious, in very remote areas, which a priest cannot reach, and they baptize, they are present in religious marriages, they take part in the liturgy, in Communion, in practice they are already Deaconesses, and people perceive it very well. Now, in regard to the Sunday “para-liturgy,” they do the homily and sometimes, no matter how much they explain to the people that it’s not a Eucharistic Celebration, the simple people say: “We are happy, Monsignor, because these little mothers celebrate a beautiful Mass,” no matter how much one explains to them . . . So, in practice, it’s already happening.
–Q: At the end of the Synod the creation was announced of a Post-Synodal Commission, made up of 13 members.
–Cardinal Barreto: The procedure of the Synod, of all Synods, is to appoint 13 or 14 members, chosen by the Assembly itself, to put the guidelines into practice; it is a Pontifical Council. The Pope appoints the members of this Council.
However, in addition, requested was an organization of the bishops, of the Indians around the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network; the two things are different.
Then, the majority of us who are in this Council, elected by the Assembly, are the same ones who are working in the Pan-Amazonian Network. And, in this connection, it must be very clear to us that we are beginning a process of rapprochement between the Holy See and the Latin American Episcopal Council.
REPAM is attached to the presidency of the Latin America Episcopal Council. REPAM’s President is Cardinal Claudio Hummes, and I am the Vice-President, by the mandate of CELAM’s Assembly, and I am CELAM’s representative in REPAM.
–Q: What competence will the Amazonian Socio-Pastoral Observatory have, proposed in point 85 of the Final Document?
–Cardinal Barreto: Speaking now of this Council, which is the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, it will have a Commission of Bishops, who represent all the countries of the Amazonian Basin, which are nine countries. However, Cardinal Claudio Hummes and I will be the President and Vice-President respectively, but there is also going to be a Commission of Amazonian indigenous leaders and also of people that live in Amazonia, but who were not born there, although they belong to a community, as there are over 30 million people living in the Amazonian territory, and it’s very important to take them into account in the evangelizing process that Amazonian Church has as mission.
So this Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network will put more emphasis on the training of the Indians, which has already been given, but not in a formal way.