Here is the third 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 third 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 PATHS OF CULTURAL CONVERSION
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14)
- Latin America has immense biodiversity and great cultural diversity. In it, Amazonia is a land of forests and water, wastelands and wetland, savannahs and mountain ranges, but above all, a land of innumerable peoples, many of them ancient, ancestral inhabitants of the territory, villages of ancient perfume that continue scenting the Continent against all despair. Our conversion must also be cultural; we must make ourselves the other, learn from the other. We must be present, respect and recognize their values, live and practice inculturation and interculturality in our proclamation of the Good News. To express and live the faith in Amazonia is an on-going challenge. It is incarnate not only in the pastoral but <also> in the concrete actions vis-a-vis the other, in the care of health, in education, in solidarity and support of the most vulnerable. In this section, we would like to share all this.
The face of the Church in the Amazonian peoples
- There is a multi-cultural reality in Amazonia’s territories, which calls for a look that includes all and that uses expressions that enable one to identify and connect all the groups, and reflect identities that are recognized, respected and promoted both in the Church as well as in society, which must see in the Amazonian peoples a valid interlocutor for dialogue and encounter. Puebla spoke of the faces that inhabit Latin America and verified that in the native peoples there is a miscegenation that has grown and continues to grow with encounter and misunderstandings between the different cultures that make up the Continent. This face, also of the Church in Amazonia, is a face that is incarnate in its territory, which evangelizes and opens paths so that peoples feel accompanied in different processes of evangelical life. Present also is a renewed missionary sense on the part of the inhabitants of the villages themselves, carrying out the prophetic and Samaritan mission of the Church, which must be strengthened with openness to dialogue with other cultures. Only an inserted and inculturated missionary Church will make native particular churches arise, with an Amazonian face and heart, rooted in the cultures and traditions proper of the peoples, united in the same faith in Christ and diverse in their way of living, expressing and celebrating it.
a. The cultural values of the Amazonian peoples
- We find teachings for life in the people of Amazonia. The native peoples and those that arrived subsequently, who forged their identity in co-existence, contributed cultural values in which we discover seeds of the Word. In the jungle not only the vegetation is intertwined, one species sustaining another, the peoples also inter-relate among themselves in a network of alliances that brings everyone gain. The jungle lives of inter-relations and inter-dependencies and this happens in all realms of life. Thanks to this, the fragile balance of Amazonia was maintained for centuries.
- The thought of the indigenous peoples offers an integrating vision of reality, which is able to understand the multiple existing connections between all that is created. This contrasts with the prevailing current of Western thought, which tends to fragment to understand reality, but is unable to articulate the whole of relations between the different fields of knowledge. The traditional management of what nature offers them has been done in a way that today we call sustainable management. In addition, we find other values of the native peoples, such as reciprocity, solidarity, community sense, equality, the family, its social organization and the sense of service.
b. The Church present and ally of the peoples in their territories
- Greed for land is at the root of the conflicts that lead to ethnocide, as is the murder and criminalization of social movements and their leaders. The demarcation and protection of the land is an obligation of the National States and of their respective governments. However, a good part of indigenous territories are without protection and those already demarked are being invaded by extractive fronts, such as mining, forest extraction, by great infrastructure projects, by illicit crops and by large estates that promote monoculture and extensive cattle raising.
- Therefore, the Church commits herself to be an ally to the Amazonian peoples, to denounce attempts against the life of indigenous communities, projects that affect the environment, the lack of demarcation of their territories, as well as the economic model of predatory and ecocide development. The presence of the Church, among the indigenous and traditional communities, needs this awareness that the defense of the land has no other end than the defense of life.
- The life of the indigenous, mestizo, riverine people, peasants, quilombolas and/or Afro-descendants and traditional communities is threatened by the destruction, the environmental exploitation and the systematic violation of their territorial rights. It is necessary to defend the rights to free determination, the demarcation of territories and previous, free and informed consultation. These peoples have “social, cultural and economic conditions that distinguish them from other sectors of the national community, and that are governed totally or partially by their own customs and traditions or by special legislation” (Conv. 169 ILO, art. 1, 1a). For the Church, the defense of life, the community, the earth and the rights of the indigenous peoples is an evangelical principle, in defense of human dignity: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10b).
- The Church promotes the integral salvation of the human person, valuing the culture of the indigenous peoples, talking about their vital needs, accompanying the movements in their struggles for their rights. Our pastoral service constitutes a service for the full life of the indigenous peoples, which moves us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God and to denounce the situations of sin, structures of death, violence and injustices, promoting the inter-cultural, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue (Cf. DAp 95).
- The Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV) or Indigenous Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI) need a specific chapter. There are in Amazonia about 130 peoples or segments of peoples, that don’t maintain systematic or permanent contacts with the enveloping society. Systematic abuses and violations of the past cause their migration to more inaccessible places, seeking protection, trying to keep their autonomy and opting to limit or avoid relations with third parties. Today their life continues to be threatened by the invasion of their territories from different fronts and by their low demography, remaining exposed to ethnic cleansing and their disappearance. From his meeting with Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Maldonado in January of 2018, Pope Francis reminded us that they “are the most vulnerable among the vulnerable (. . . ) Continue defending these more vulnerable brothers. Their presence reminds us that we cannot have common goods at the rhythm of the greed of consumption” (Fr. PM). An option for the defense of the PIAV/PIACI does not exempt the local Churches from pastoral responsibility over them.
- This responsibility must be manifested in specific actions for the defense of their rights, concretized in actions of influence so that States assume the defense of their rights through the legal and inviolable guarantee of the territories they occupy in a traditional way, including adopting precautionary measures in the regions where, there being only traces of their presence, the latter is not confirmed officially and establishing mechanisms of bilateral cooperation between States, when these groups occupy trans-border areas. Respect for their self-determination must be guaranteed at all times, as well as their free decision on the type of relationship they want to establish with other groups. Therefore, it will be necessary that all the People of God, and especially the neighboring towns to the territories of the PIAV/PIACI, be sensitized on respect for these people and the importance of the inviolability of their territories. As Saint John Paul II said in Cuiaba in 1991: “The Church, dear Indian brothers, and sisters, has been and will continue to be always by your side to defend the dignity of human beings, their right to have their own and peaceful life, respecting the values of their traditions, customs, and cultures.”
Paths for an inculturated Church
- With the Incarnation, Christ put aside His prerogative as God and became man in a concrete culture to identify Himself with the whole of humanity. Inculturation is the incarnation of the Gospel in the native cultures (what is not assumed isn’t redeemed,” Saint Irenaeus, Cf. Puebla 400) and, at the same time, the introduction of these cultures in the life of the Church. The peoples are the protagonists in this process, accompanied by their agents and Pastors.
a. The living of the faith expressed in popular piety and inculturated catechesis
- Popular piety is an important means that links many peoples of Amazonia with their spiritual experiences, their cultural roots and their community integration. They are manifestations with which the people express their faith, through images, symbols, traditions, rites and other sacramentals. The pilgrimages, processions and patronal feasts must be appreciated, accompanied, promoted and sometimes purified, given that they are privileged moments of evangelization, which must lead to the encounter with Christ. Marian devotions are very rooted in Amazonia and in the whole of Latin America.
- Non-clericalization is characteristic of Brotherhoods, Fraternities and groups linked to popular piety. The laity assumes a leadership that is hardly attained in other ecclesial realms, with the participation of brothers and sisters that carry out services and direct prayers, blessings, traditional sacred songs; lead novenas, organize processions, promote patronal feasts, etc. it is necessary to “give an appropriate catechesis and to accompany the faith already present in popular religiosity. A concrete way could be to offer a process of Christian initiation … that leads us to be increasingly like Jesus Christ, causing a progressive appropriation of His attitudes” (DAp 300).
b. The mystery of the faith reflected in an inculturated theology
- Indian theology, the theology of an Amazonian face and popular piety are already a richness of the indigenous world, of its culture and spirituality. When the missionary and pastoral agent takes the word of Jesus’ Gospel, he identifies with the culture and the encounter takes place form which witness, service, proclamation and apprenticeship of languages is born. The indigenous world, with its myths, narratives, rites, songs, dance and spiritual expressions enriches the inter-cultural encounter. Puebla already recognized that “the cultures are not empty terrains, lacking in genuine values. The Church’s evangelization is not a process of destruction, but of consolidation and strengthening of those values: a contribution to the growth of the ‘seeds of the Word’” (DP 401, cf. GS 57) present in the cultures.
Paths for an inter-cultural Church
a. Respect of cultures and rights of the peoples
- We are all invited to approach the Amazonian peoples as equals, respecting their history, their cultures, their ‘good living’ style (PF 06.10.19). Colonialism is the imposition of specific ways of living of some peoples over others, including economically, culturally and religiously. We reject an evangelization of colonialist style. To proclaim the Good News of Jesus implies to recognize the seeds of the Word already present in the cultures. The evangelization we propose today for Amazonia is the inculturated proclamation that generates processes of interculturality, processes that promote the life of the Church with an Amazonian identity and face.
b. The promotion of intercultural dialogue in a global world
56. In the Church’s evangelizing task, which must not be confused with proselytism, we must include clear processes of inculturation of our missionary methods and schemes. Proposed concretely to the centers of research and pastoral of the Church is that, in alliance with the indigenous peoples, they study, compile and systematize the traditions of the Amazonian ethnic groups to foster an educational endeavor that begins from their identity and culture, helps in the promotion and defense of their rights, keeps and spreads its value in the Latin American cultural setting
- Educational actions are interpellated today by the need for inculturation. It is a challenge to look for methodologies and contents that are appropriate for the peoples where the ministry of teaching is to be exercised. In this connection, knowledge of their languages, their beliefs, and aspirations, their needs and hopes is important, as well as the collective construction of educational processes that have, both in the form and in the contents, the cultural identity of the Amazonian communities, insisting on formation in integral ecology as transversal axis.
c. The challenges for health, education, and communication
- The Church assumes as an important task to promote education in preventive health and offer health care in places where the State’s care doesn’t reach. It requires favoring initiatives of integration that benefit the health of Amazonians. It is also important to promote the socialization of ancestral knowledge in the field of traditional medicine proper to each culture.
- Among the complexities of the Amazonian territory, we highlight the fragility of education, especially in the indigenous peoples. Although education is a human right, the educational quality is deficient and school desertion very frequent, especially by girls. Education evangelizes, promotes social transformation, empowering people with a healthy critical sense. “A good school education at an early age puts seeds that can produce effects throughout a life” (LS 213). It is our task to promote education for solidarity, which stems from the awareness of a common origin and of a future shared by all. (cf. LS 2202). It is necessary to exact from governments the implementation of a public, intercultural and bilingual education.
- The world, increasingly globalized and complex, has developed an unprecedented information network. However, such a flow of instantaneous information does not imply better communication or connection among peoples. We want to promote in Amazonia a communicative culture that fosters dialogue, the culture of encounter, and the care of the “common home.” Motivated by an integral ecology, we want to empower areas of communication already existing in the region, to thus promote urgently an integral ecological conversion. To do so, it is necessary to collaborate with the formation of native agents of communication, especially Indians. Not only are they privileged interlocutors for evangelization and human promotion in the territory, but, in addition, they help us to spread the culture of ‘good living’ and the care of creation.
- For the purpose of developing the different connections with the whole of the Amazon and of improving its communication, the Church wishes to create a Pan-Amazonian ecclesial communications network, which includes the different means used by the particular Churches and other ecclesial organisms. Their contribution can have resonance and help in the ecological conversion of the Church and the planet. REPAM can collaborate with advice and support of the formative processes, the follow-up, and strengthening of communication in the Pan-Amazonian region.
New paths for the cultural conversion
- In this connection, we propose the creation of a school network of bilingual education for Amazonia (similar to Faith and Joy), which articulates educational proposals that respond to the needs of the communities, respecting, valuing and integrating in them the cultural and linguistic identity
- We want to sustain, support and foster educational experiences of bilingual, intercultural education, which already exist in the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Amazonia and involve the Catholic Universities so that they work and commit themselves to the network.
- We will look for new forms of conventional and non-conventional education, such as long-distance education, in keeping with the needs of the places, times and persons.
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester