Here is the second installment of Zenit’s English translation of the Final Document and Voting on the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops handed to the Holy Father Francis, at the end of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region (October 6-17, 2019) on the theme: “Amazonia: New Pathways for the Church and for An Integral Ecology”:
This installment includes the second chapter of the final synod document. Zenit will publish the remainder of the text in the following days. We will publish the official Vatican English version when it is available.
NEW WAYS OF PASTORAL CONVERSION
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).
- A missionary Church going forth calls us to a pastoral conversion. For Amazonia, this journeying also implies “navigating,” by our rivers, our lakes, among our people. In Amazonia, water unites us; it doesn’t separate us. Our pastoral conversion will be Samaritan, in dialogue, accompanying people with concrete faces of Indians, of peasants, of Afro-descendants and migrants, of young people, of inhabitants of the cities. All of this will imply a spirituality of listening and of proclamation. It is thus that we will journey and navigate in this chapter.
The Church is missionary going forth
- By nature the Church is missionary and she has her origin in the “fontal love of God” (AG 2). The missionary dynamism that stems from the love of God radiates, expands, overflows and spreads throughout the universe. “By Baptism, we are inserted in the dynamic of love through the encounter with Jesus, who gives a new horizon to life” (DAp 12). This overflowing drives the Church to a pastoral conversion and transforms us into living communities that work in a team and in a network, at the service of evangelization. The mission understood thus isn’t something optative, an activity of the Church among others, but her very nature. The Church is mission! “Missionary action is the paradigm of the whole work of the Church” (EG 15). To be a missionary disciple is something more than fulfilling tasks or doing things. It is situated in the order of being. “Jesus points out to us, His disciples, that our mission in the world can’t be static, but is itinerant. A Christian is an itinerant” (Francis, Angelus, 30/06/2019).
a. Samaritan, merciful and solidary Church
- We want to be an Amazonian, Samaritan Church incarnate in the way in which the Son of God was incarnate: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Mt 8:17b). He who made himself poor to enrich us with His poverty (2 Co 8:9) through His Spirit He exhorts today’s missionary disciples to go forth to encounter all, especially native peoples, the poor, the excluded from society and others. We also want a Magdalene Church, that feels loved and reconciled, that proclaims with joy and conviction Christ crucified and resurrected; a Marian Church that generates children to the faith and educates them with affection and patience, also on peoples’ riches. We want to be a serving, kerygmatic, educating, inculturated Church in the midst of the peoples we serve.
b. Church in ecumenical, inter-religious and cultural dialogue
- The multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious reality of Amazonia calls for an attitude of open dialogue, recognizing likewise the multiplicity of the interlocutors: the indigenous peoples, riverine people, peasants and Afro-descendants, the other Christian Churches and religious Denominations, organizations of the civil society, popular social movements, the State, in fine all persons of goodwill that seek the defense of life, the integrity of Creation, peace, and the common good. In Amazonia, “relations between Catholics and Pentecostals, Charismatics and Evangelical aren’t easy. The sudden appearance of new communities, linked to the personality of some preachers, contrasts strongly with the beginnings and ecclesiological experience of the historical Churches, and it can conceal the danger of being dragged by emotional waves of the moment or of closing the experience of faith in protected and tranquilizing environments. The fact that not a few Catholic faithful feel attracted to these communities is a motive of friction, but it can become, on our part, a motive for personal examination and pastoral renewal” (Pope Francis, 28.09.2018). The ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue must be assumed as the indispensable path of evangelization in Amazonia (Cf. DAp 227). Amazonia is an amalgam of creeds, the majority Christian. In the face of this reality, real paths of communion are opened to us: “The manifestations of good sentiments aren’t enough. Concrete gestures are needed that penetrate the spirit and shake the consciences, driving each one to interior conversion, which is the foundation of all progress on the path of ecumenism” (Benedict XVI, Message to the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, 20/04/2005). The centrality of the Word of God in the life of our communities is a factor of union and dialogue. Many common actions can be taken around the Word of God: translations of the Bible into local languages, joint editions, diffusion and distribution of the Bible and meetings between Catholic men and women theologians and others of different Confessions.
- In Amazonia, the inter-religious dialogue is carried out especially with the indigenous religions and Afro-descendants cults. These traditions deserve to be known, understood in their expressions and in their relationship with the forest and Mother Earth. Together with them, Christians, based on their faith in the Word of God, engage in dialogue, sharing their lives, their concerns, their struggles, their experiences of God, to deepen mutually their faith and to act together in defense of the “common home.” In this connection, it is necessary that the churches of Amazonia develop initiatives of encounter, study and dialogue with the followers of these religions. Sincere and respectful dialogue is the bridge towards building “good living.” In the exchange of gifts, the Spirit leads increasingly to the truth and the good (Cf. EG 250).
Missionary Church that serves and accompanies the Amazonian peoples
- This Synod intends to be a strong call to all the baptized of Amazonia to be missionary disciples. The sending to the mission is inherent to Baptism and is for all the baptized. Through it we all receive the same dignity of being sons and daughters of God, and no one can be excluded from Jesus’ mission to His disciples. ”Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). Hence we believe it is necessary to generate a greater missionary impetus among the native vocations, <as> Amazonia must also be evangelized by Amazonians.
a. Church with an indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant face
- It is urgent to give the indigenous pastoral its specific place in the Church. We start from plural realities and different cultures, to define, elaborate and adopt pastoral actions, which enable us to develop an evangelizing proposal amid the indigenous communities, situating ourselves within the framework of an indigenous pastoral and of the earth. The pastoral of the indigenous peoples has its own specificity. The colonizations motivated by extractive zctivities throughout history, with the different migratory currents, put them in a situation of high vulnerability. In this context, as Church, it continues to be necessary to create and maintain a preferential option for the indigenous peoples, in virtue of which diocesan organisms of indigenous pastoral must establish and consolidate themselves with a renewed missionary action, which listens, dialogues, is incarnated and has a permanent presence. The preferential option for the indigenous peoples, with their cultures, identities, and histories, calls us to aspire to an indigenous Church with their own priests and ministers, always united and in total communion with the Catholic Church.
- Recognizing the importance of the attention that the Church is called to give in Amazonia to the phenomenon of urbanization and the problems and perspective related to it, a reference to the rural world as a whole is necessary and to the rural pastoral in particular. From the pastoral point of view, the Church must give answers to the phenomenon of the depopulation of the countryside, with all the consequences that derive from it (loss of identity, prevailing laicism, exploitation of rural work, family disintegration, etc.).
b. Church with a Migrant Face
- Given its increase and volume, at present, the phenomenon of migrations has become unheard of political, social and ecclesial challenge (Cf. DA, 517, a). In the face of this, many ecclesial communities have received migrants with great generosity, remembering that ”I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). The forced displacements of indigenous, peasant, Afro-descendants and riverine families, expelled from their territories by the pressure on the same or by the asphyxiation given the lack of opportunities, calls for a joint pastoral in the periphery of the urban centers. In this connection, it will be necessary to create missionary teams for their accompaniment, coordinating with the parish and other ecclesial and extra-ecclesial conditions of hospitality, offering inculturated liturgies and in the languages of the migrants; promoting areas of cultural exchanges, fostering integration in the community and in the city and motivating them in this work of leadership.
c. Church with a Young Face
- Outstanding among the different faces of the Amazonian realities are those of the young people present in the whole territory. They are young people with indigenous faces and identities, Afro-descendants, riverine people, those in extractive activities, migrants, and refugees, among others. Young people residents in rural and urban areas, who dream daily, seeking better conditions of life, with the profound desire to have a full life; young students and workers, with a strong presence and participation in different social and ecclesial areas. Among Amazonian youth, there are sad realities, such as poverty, violence, illnesses, child prostitution, sexual exploitation, use and trafficking of drugs, early pregnancy, unemployment, depression, human trafficking, new forms of slavery, trafficking of organs, difficulties in accessing to education, health care, and social care. Lamentably, in the last years, there has been a significant increase in suicide among young people, as well as the growth of the imprisoned youth population and crimes between and against young people, especially Afro-descendants and those on the periphery. Living in the same great territory of Amazonia, they have the same dreams and yearning as other young people in this world: to be considered, respected, to have study and job opportunities and a future of hope. However, they are living an intense crisis of values, or a transition to other ways of conceiving the reality, where the ethical elements are changing, including for young Indians. The task of the Church is to accompany them to face all situations that destroy their identity or damage their self-esteem.
- Young people are also intensely present in the territory’s migrant contexts. The reality of young people in urban centers merits special attention. Increasingly, cities are recipients of all the ethnic groups, peoples and problems of Amazonia. Rural Amazonia is being depopulated; the cities are facing enormous problems of juvenile delinquency, lack of work, ethnic fights and social injustices. Here, in particular, the Church is called to be a prophetic presence among young people, giving them adequate accompaniment and appropriate education.
- In communion with the Amazonian youth reality, the Church proclaims the Good News of Jesus to young people, provides vocational discernment and accompaniment, the place of appreciation of the local culture and identity, youth leadership, the promotion of the rights of youth, the strengthening of creative, innovative and differentiated areas of evangelization through a renewed and daring youth ministry. A pastoral always in process, centered on Jesus Christ and his plan, dialogic and integral, committed in all the existing youth realities in the territory. The young Indians have enormous potential and take part actively in their communities and organizations, contributing as leaders and animators, in defense of their rights — especially in the territory –, health and education. On the other hand, they are the main victims of the insecurity of indigenous lands and the lack of specific and quality public policies. The spread of alcohol and drugs often reaches the indigenous communities, gravely harming young people and impeding them from living in freedom, to build their dreams and take part actively in the community.
- The leadership of young people appears clearly in the documents of the Synod on Young People (160, 46) in the Papal Exhortation Christus Vivit (170) and in the Encyclical Laudato Si’ (209). Young people want to be protagonists and the Amazonian Church wants to recognize their space. She wants to be a companion in listening, acknowledging to young people a teleological place, as “prophets of hope,” committed to dialogue, ecologically sensitive and attentive to the “common home”; a Church that welcomes and walks with young people, especially in the peripheries. In face of this, three urgencies arise: to promote new ways of evangelization through the social media (Francis, Chrisitus Vivit 86); to help an Indian youth achieve a healthy interculturality, to help them all to confront the crisis of anti-values that destroys their self-esteem, and makes them lose their identity.
d. Church that follows new ways in the urban pastoral
- Humanity’s strong tendency to concentrate in cities, migrating from the small to the larger, also happens in Amazonia. The accelerated growth of the Amazonian metropolises is accompanied by the generation of urban peripheries. At the same time, lifestyles, ways of living together, languages and values configured by the metropolises and transmitted, and are increasingly implanted both in indigenous communities as well as in the rest of the rural world. The family in the city is a place of synthesis between the traditional culture and the modern. However, families often suffer poverty, precarious housing, lack of work, increase in the consumption of drugs and alcohol, discrimination and child suicide. In addition, there is a lack of dialogue in family life, and the traditions and language are lost. The families are also faced with new health problems, which require adequate education, for instance, in the matter of maternity. The rapid present changes affect the Amazonian family. So we find new family formats: one-parent families under the responsibility of women, increase of separated families, consensual unions and gathered families, diminution in institutional marriages. The city is an explosion of life, because “God lives in the city” (DAg 514). In it, there are anxieties and searches for the meaning of life, conflicts but also solidarity, fraternity, desire for goodness, truth, and justice” (Cf. EG 71-75). To evangelize the city or the urban culture means “to achieve and, so to speak, modify by the force of the Gospel the criteria of judgment, the values that count, the centers of interest and the lines of thought, the sources of inspiration and humanity’s models of life, that appear in contrast to the Word of God and the plan of salvation” (EN 19).
- It is necessary to defend the right of all persons to the city. The claimed right to the city is defined as the equitable enjoyment of the cities within the principles of sustainability, democracy, and social justice. Nevertheless, it will also be necessary to influence public policies and to promote initiatives that improve the quality of life in the rural world, thus avoiding its uncontrolled displacement.
- The grassroots ecclesial communities have been and are a gift of God to the local Churches of Amazonia. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that, with the <passing> of time some ecclesial communities have settled, weakened or even disappeared, but the great majority continues to be persevering and is the pastoral foundation of many parishes. Today the great dangers of the ecclesial communities come primarily from secularism, from individualism from the lack of the social dimension and the absence of missionary activity. Therefore, it is necessary that Pastors encourage each and all of their faithful to missionary discipleship. The ecclesial community will have to be present in the areas of participation in public policies, where actions are articulated to revitalize the culture, coexistence, leisure, and celebration. We must fight so that the “favelas” and “villas miseria,” are assured of basic fundamental rights; water, energy, housing, and promote integral ecological citizenship. Institute the ministry of hospitality in urban communities of Amazonia for fraternal solidarity with migrants, refugees, homeless people and persons that have abandoned rural areas.
- Special care must be given to the reality of Indians in the urban centers, as they are the ones most exposed to the enormous problems of juvenile delinquency, lack of work, ethnic fights and social injustices. It is one of the greatest challenges of today: increasingly cities are the places of destiny of all the ethnic groups and peoples of Amazonia. An indigenous pastoral of the city must be articulated that attends to this specific reality.
e. A spirituality of listening and proclamation
- Pastoral action is sustained by a pastoral based on listening to the Word of God and the cry of the people, to then be able to proclaim the Good News with a prophetic spirit. We acknowledge that the Church that listens to the clamor of the Spirit in the cry of Amazonia can make her own the joys and hopes, sadness and anxieties of all, but especially of the poorest (Cf. GS 1), who are favorite daughters and sons of God. We discover that the plentiful waters of the Spirit, like those of the Amazon River, which overflow periodically, lead us to that super-abundant life that God offers us to share in the proclamation.
New Pathways for Pastoral Conversion
- The itinerant missionary teams in Amazonia are weaving and building community on the way, and they help to strengthen ecclesial synodality. They can add several charisms, institutions, and Congregations, laymen and laywomen, men and women religious, priests; to add themselves to reach together where one alone cannot. The tours of the missionaries that leave their headquarters and spend some time visiting, community after community, and celebrating the Sacraments, give standing to what is called the “pastoral of a visit.” It is a type of pastoral method that responds to the present conditions and possibilities of our churches. Thanks to those methods, and by the action of the Holy Spirit, those communities have also developed a rich ministeriality, which is a motive of thanksgiving.
- We propose an itinerant network that brings together the different efforts of the teams that accompany and dynamize the life and faith of the communities in Amazonia. The ways of political influence for the transformation of the reality must be discerned with the Pastors and laity, geared to pass from pastoral visits to a more permanent presence. The Congregations and/or Provinces of men and women religious of the world, that are not yet involved in missions, are invited to establish at least a missionary front in any of the Amazonian countries.
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester