Here is the fifth 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 final installment includes the fifth chapter and the conclusion of the final synod document. We will publish the official Vatican English version when it is available.
NEW PATHS OF CONVERSION
“I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one: (Jn 17:23)
- To walk together the Church needs a Synodal conversion, synodality of the People of God under the guidance of the Spirit in Amazonia. With this horizon of communion and participation we seek a new ecclesial path, especially in the ministeriality and sacramentality of the Church with an Amazonia face. Consecrated life, the laity and among them women, are the old and ever new protagonists that call us to this conversion.
Missionary synodality in the Amazonian Church
a. Missionary synodality of all the People of God under the guidance of the Spirit
87. “Synod” is an ancient word venerated by Tradition; it indicates the path followed together by the members of the People of God; it remits to the Lord Jesus, who presents Himself as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6), and to the fact that Christians, His followers, were called “the disciples of the Way” (Acts 9:2); to be synodal is to follow together “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25). Synodaliy is the primitive Church’s way of being (cf. Acts 15) and it must be ours. “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Co 12:12). Synodality characterizes also the Church of Vatican II, understood as People of God, in equality and common dignity in face of the diversity of ministries, charisms, and services. She “indicates the specific way of living and acting (modus vivendi et operandi) of the Church of the People of God, which manifests and carries out concretely her being “communion,” in walking together, in coming together in assembly and in the active participation of all her members in her evangelizing action” (. . . ) that is, in the “co-responsibility and participation of all the People of God in the life and mission of the Church” (CTI, Synodality . . ., n. 6-7).
88. To walk together, the Church of today needs a conversion to the synodal experience. It is necessary to strengthen a culture of dialogue, of mutual listening, of spiritual discernment, of consensus and communion to find areas and ways of joint decision and to respond to the pastoral challenges. So co-responsibility will be fostered in the life of the Church with a spirit of service. It is urgent to walk, propose and assume responsibilities to overcome clericalism and arbitrary impositions. Synodality is a constitutive dimension of the Church. There cannot be Church without recognizing an effective exercise of the sensus fidei of all the People of God.
b. Spirituality of synodal communion under the guidance of the Spirit
- The Church lives of communion with the body of Christ by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The so-called “Apostolic Council of Jerusalem” (cf. Acts 15; al 2:1-10) was a synodal event in which the Apostolic Church, in a decisive moment of her journey, lived her vocation in the light of the risen Lord’s presence in view of the mission. This event was constituted in the paradigmatic figure of the Synods of the Church and of her synodal vocation. The decision taken by the Apostles, with the company of all the community of Jerusalem, was work of the action of the Holy Spirit, who guides the path of the Church ensuring her fidelity to Jesus’ Gospel: “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). The whole assembly received the decision and made it its own (Acts 15:22); then the community of Antioch did the same (Acts 15:30-31). To be truly “synodal” is to advance in harmony under the impulse of the vivifying Spirit.
- The Church in Amazonia is called to walk in the exercise of discernment, which is the center of the synodal processes and events. It is about determining and following as Church — through the theological interpretation of the signs of the times, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit –, the path to follow in the service of God’s plan. Communal discernment enables one to discover a call that God makes heard in every specific historical situation. This Assembly is a moment of grace to exercise mutual listening, sincere dialogue and communal discernment for the common good of the People of God in the Amazonian Region and then, in the stage of implementation of the decisions, to continue walking under the impulse of the Holy Spirit in the small communities, the parishes, the Dioceses, the Vicariates, the “Prelacies,” and in the whole region.
c. Towards a synodal style of living and working in the Amazonian region
- We want to implement, with evangelical daring, new paths for the life of the Church and her service to an integral ecology in Amazonia. Synodality marks a style of living communion and participation in the local Churches, which is characterized by respect of the dignity and equality of all the baptized men and women, the complement of the charisms and ministries, the satisfaction of meeting in assemblies to discern together the voice of the Spirit. This Synod gives us the occasion to reflect on the way to structure the local Churches in each region and country, and to advance in a synodal conversion that points out common paths in evangelization. The logic of the Incarnation teaches that God, in Christ, binds Himself to human beings that live in the “cultures proper of the peoples: (AG 9) and that the Church, People of God inserted among the peoples, has the beauty of a multi-form face, because it is rooted in many different cultures (EG 116). This is carried out in the life and mission of the local Churches in each “great socio-cultural territory” (AG 22).
- A Church with an Amazonian face needs her communities to be permeated with a synodal spirit, backed by organizational structures consistent with this dynamic as genuine organisms of “communion.” The forms of the exercise of synodality are varied; they must be de-centralized in their various levels (diocesan, regional, national, universal) respectful and attentive to the local processes, without weakening the bond with the rest of the Sister Churches and with the universal Church. The organizational forms for the exercise of synodality can be varied; they establish a synchrony between communion and participation, between co-responsibility and the ministeriality of all, paying special attention to the effective participation of the laity in discernment and the taking of decisions, boosting women’s participation.
New paths for ecclesial ministeriality
a. Ministerial Church and new ministries
- The renewal of Vatican Council II puts the laity in the heart of the People of God, in a wholly ministerial Church, which has in the Sacrament of Baptism the basis of the identity and mission of every Christian. “The laity are faithful that through Baptism were incorporated in Christ, constituted People of God and, in this way, made participants of the priestly, prophetic and royal munus of Christ, so that they excercise their role in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (LD 31). Born of this triple relationship, with Christ, the Church and the world, is the vocation and mission of the laity. In view of a just and solidary society in the care of the “common home,” the Church in Amazonia wants to make of the laity privileged actors. Their performance, has been and is vital, both in the coordination of the ecclesial communities, in the exercise of ministries, as well as in their prophetic commitment in an inclusive world for all, which has in its martyrs a witness that challenges us.
- As expression of the co-responsibility of all the baptized in the Church and of the exercise of the sensus fidei of the whole People of God, pastoral assemblies and councils arose in all ecclesial ambits, as well as the coordination teams of the different pastoral services and ministries entrusted to the laity. We acknowledge the need to strengthen and enlarge the areas for the laity’s participation, be it in consultation as well as in the taking of decisions, in the life and mission of the Church.
- Although the mission in the world is the task of all the baptized, Vatican Council II highlighted the mission of the laity: “the hope of a New Earth, far from attenuating must before boost the concern for the perfecting of this earth” (GS 39). It is urgent for the Amazon Church that ministries for men and women are promoted and conferred in an equitable way. Small ecclesial missionary communities, which cultivate the faith, listen to the Word and celebrate together close to the life of the people, guarantee the fabric of the local Church, also in Amazonia. It is the Church of baptized men and women that we must consolidate, promoting ministeriality and especially the awareness of baptismal dignity.
- In addition, the Bishop must be able to entrust, by a mandate of a specific time and in the absence of priests in the communities, the exercise of the pastoral care of the same to a person not invested with the priestly character, who is a member of the community. Personalisms must be avoided; therefore, it will be a rotating post. The Bishop will be able to constitute this ministry in representation of the Christian community with an official mandate through a ritual act so that the person responsible for the community is also recognized at the civil and local level. The priest always remains with the power and faculty of the parish priest, as the one responsible for the community.
b. Consecrated life
- The evangelical text — ”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor” (Lk 4:18) — expresses a conviction that animates the mission of consecrated life in Amazonia, sent to proclaim the Good News in the close accompaniment of the indigenous peoples, to the most vulnerable and those farthest away, from a dialogue and proclamation that will make possible a profound knowledge of spirituality. A consecrated life with inter-congregational and inter-institutional experiences can remain in communities where no one wants to be and with whom no one wants to be, learning and respecting the indigenous culture and languages to reach peoples’ hearts.
- At the same time that the mission contributes to build and consolidate the Church, it also strengthens and renews consecrated life and calls it more forcefully to take up the most pure element of its original inspiration. So its witness will be prophetic and source of new religious vocations. We propose to bet on a consecrated life with Amazonian identity, strengthening the indigenous vocations. We support the insertion and itinerancy of the consecrated, next to the most impoverished and excluded. Formative processes must include a focus on interculturality, inculturation, and dialogue between Amazonian spiritualities and cosmo-visions.
c. Woman’s presence and hour
- The Church in Amazonia wants to enlarge areas for a more incisive feminine presence in the Church” (EG 103). “Let us not reduce the commitment of women in the Church, but let us promote their active participation in the ecclesial community. If the Church loses women in their total and real dimension, the Church exposes herself to sterility” (Pope Francis, Meeting with the Brazilian Episcopate, Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013).
- Since Vatican Council II, the Magisterium of the Church has highlighted the special place that woman has in her: “The hour is coming, the hour has come in which woman’s vocation is fulfilled in plenitude; the hour in which woman acquires an influence in the world, a weight, a power never attained until now. Therefore, at this moment in which humanity is undergoing such a profound change, women full of the spirit of the Gospel can help so much so that humanity does not fail” (Paul VI, 1965; AAS 58, 1966, 13-14).
- The wisdom of ancestral peoples affirms that Mother Earth has a feminine face. In the indigenous and Western world, woman is the one who works in multiple facets, in the teaching of children, in the transmission of the faith and of the Gospel, they are a testimonial and responsible presence in human promotion, so it is requested that women’s voice be heard, that they be consulted and take part in decision-taking and, in this way, be able to contribute with their sensibility to ecclesial synodality. We value “woman’s function, acknowledging her fundamental role in the formation and continuity of cultures, in spirituality, in communities and families. It is necessary that she assumes with greater strength her leadership in the heart of the Church, and that the latter recognizes and promotes her, reinforcing her participation in the pastoral councils of parishes and dioceses, and even in government departments.
- In face of the reality that women suffer, victims of physical, moral and religious violence, including femicide, the Church positions herself in defense of their rights and recognizes them as protagonists and guardians of creation and of the “common home.” We acknowledge the ministeriality that Jesus reserved for women. It is necessary to foment the formation of women in studies of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Canon Law, valuing their presence in organizations and <their> leadership inside and outside the ecclesial realm. We want to strengthen family ties, especially for migrant women. We assure her place in areas of leadership and training. We request a revision of the Motu Proprio of Saint Paul VI, Ministeria Quedam, so that women who are adequately formed and prepared can receive the ministries of Readers and Acolytes, among others to be developed. In the new contexts of evangelization and pastoral en Amazonia, where the majority of Catholic communities are led by women, we ask that the instituted ministry be created of “the woman directress of the community” and to recognize this within the service of the changing needs of evangelization and care of the communities.
- In the many consultations carried out in the Amazonian area, the fundamental role of religious and laywomen was recognized in the Church of Amazonia and its communities, given the many services they carry out. In a high number of the said consultations, the Permanent Diaconate was requested for women. For this reason, the topic was also vey present in the Synod. Already in 2016, Pope Francis created a “Commission of Study on the Diaconate of Women: that, as Commission, came to a partial result on how the reality of women’s diaconate was in the first centuries of the Church and its implications today. Therefore, we would like to share our experiences and reflections with the commission and we await its results.
d. Permanent Diaconate
- Urgent, for the Amazonian Church is the promotion, formation, and support of the Permanent Deacons, given the importance of this ministry in the community. In a particular way, because of the ecclesial service that many communities require, especially the indigenous peoples. The specific pastoral needs of the Amazonian Christian communities lead us to a broader understanding of the diaconate, service that has existed since the beginning of the Church, and restored as an autonomous and permanent position by Vatican II (LG 29, AG 16, OE 17). Today the diaconate must also promote integral ecology, human development, social pastoral work, service of those that find themselves in a situation of vulnerability and poverty, configuring them to Christ the Servant, making her a merciful, Samaritan, solidary and diaconal Church.
- The presbyters must keep in mind that a deacon is at the service of the community, by designation and under the authority of the Bishop, and that they have the obligation to support the Permanent Deacons and to act in communion with them. The maintenance of Permanent Deacons must be kept present. This includes the processing of vocation according to the criteria of admission. The candidate’s motivations should point to the service and mission of the Permanent Diaconate in the Church and in the world of today. The formative project is alternated between academic study and pastoral practice, accompanied by a formative team and the parish community, with contents and itineraries adapted to each local reality. It is desirable that the wife and children of a Deacon take part in the process of formation.
- In addition to the compulsory subjects, the program of studies (curriculum) for the formation of the Permanent Diaconate must include subjects that foster ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, the history of the Church in Amazonia, affection and sexuality, the indigenous cosmo-vision, integral ecology and other transversal subjects that are typical of the diaconal ministry. The team of formators will be made up of Ordained Ministers and competent laypersons that are in line with the directorate of the Permanent Diaconate approved in each country. We want to encourage, support and accompany personally the vocational process and formation of future Permanent Deacons in the riverine and indigenous communities, with the participation of parish priests and men and women religious. Finally, there must be a follow-up program for continual formation (spirituality, theological formation, pastoral subjects, updating of the Church’s documents, etc.). under the guidance of the Bishop.
e. Itineraries of inculturated formation
- “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer 3:15). This promise, being divine, is valid for all times and contexts; therefore, it is also valid for Amazonia. Destined to configure the presbyter to Christ, formation for the Ordained Ministry must be a communal school of fraternity, experiential, spiritual, pastoral and doctrinal, in contact with persons’ reality, in harmony with the local culture and religiosity, close to the poor. We need to prepare good Pastors that live the Good News of the Kingdom, know the Canonical Laws, are compassionate, as much like Jesus as possible, whose practice is to do the will of the Father, nourished by the Eucharist and Sacred Scripture, that is, a more biblical formation in the sense of assimilation to Jesus as He shows Himself in the Gospels: close to persons, capable of listening, healing, consoling, patiently, not seeking to request but to manifest the tenderness of His Father’s heart.
- In view of offering the future presbyters of the churches in Amazonia a formation with an Amazonian face, inserted in and adapted to the reality, contextualized and capable of responding to the numerous pastoral and missionary challenges, we propose a plan of formation in line with the challenges of the local Churches and the reality of Amazonia. It must include, in the academic contents, subjects that address integral ecology, eco-theology, the theology of creation, Indian theologies, ecological spirituality, the history of the Church in Amazonia, Amazonian cultural anthropology, etc. The centers of formation to presbyterial and consecrated life must be inserted, preferentially, in the Amazonian reality, in view of fostering the contact of the Amazonian youth in formation with his reality, while he prepares for his future mission, thus guaranteeing that the process of formation is not distanced from the vital content of persons and their culture, as well as offering to other non-Amazonian youths the opportunity to do part of their formation in Amazonia, thus fostering missionary vocations.
f. The Eucharist, Source and Summit of Synodal Communion
- According to Vatican Council II, participation in the Eucharist is source and summit of the whole Christian life; it is the symbol of that unity of the Mystical Body; it is the center and summit of the whole life of the Christian community. The Eucharist contains the whole spiritual good of the Church; it is the source and summit of all evangelization. Let us echo Saint John Paul II’s phrase: “The Church lives of the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 1). The Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship Redemptoris Sacramentum (2004) insists that the faithful enjoy the right to have the Celebration of the Eucharist as it is established in the Liturgical Books and Norms. However, it seems strange to speak of the right to celebrate a Eucharist according to what is prescribed, not to speak of the more fundamental right of access to the Eucharist for all: “In the Eucharist the plenitude has already been realized, and it is the vital center of the universe, the center full of love and inexhaustible life. United to the Incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos thanks God. In fact, the Eucharist is in itself an act of cosmic love: (LS 236).
- There is a right of the community to the celebration, which derives from the essence of the Eucharist and its place in the economy of salvation. The sacramental life is the integration of the different dimensions of human life in the Paschal Mystery, which strengthens us. Therefore, the living communities truly cry out for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is, without a doubt, point of arrival (summit and consummation) of the community, but it is, at the same time, point of departure: of encounter, of reconciliation, of apprenticeship and catechesis, of communal growth.
- Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist. On occasions, months go by if not also years, before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Anoint the Sick of the community. We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 1) in the measure that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the presbyterate, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity and we pray that there will be many vocations that live the celibate priesthood. We know that this discipline “is not exacted by the nature itself of the priesthood . . . although it has many reasons of convenience with it” (PO 16). In his encyclical on priestly celibacy, Saint Paul VI kept this law and gave theological, spiritual and pastoral reasons that support it. In 1992, Saint John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Exhortation on priestly formation confirmed this tradition in the Latin Church (PDV 29). Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but manifests and serves it (LG 13; OE 6) which gives witness of the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we propose to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority, in the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable men recognized by the community, that have a fruitful Permanent Diaconate and receive appropriate formation for the presbyterate, being able to have a legitimately constituted and stable family, to sustain the life of the Christian community through preaching the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazonian region. In this connection, some were in favor of a universal treatment of this subject.
New paths for ecclesial synodality
a. Regional synodal structures in the Amazonian Church.
- The majority of the Dioceses, Prelatures, and Vicariates of Amazonia have extensive territories, few ordained ministers and a lack of financial resources, going through difficulties to sustain the mission. The “Amazonian cost” has serious repercussions on evangelization. In face of this reality, it is necessary to think again about the way to organize the local Churches, to rethink the structures of communion at the provincial, regional, national levels and also at the Pan-Amazonian level. Therefore, it is necessary to articulate synodal areas and generate networks of solidary support. It is urgent to surmount the borders that the geography imposes and to <build> bridges that unite. The Aparecida Document already insisted that the local Churches should generate ways of inter-diocesan association in each nation or between countries of a region, and to nourish greater cooperation between the Sister Churches (cf. DAp 182). In view of a present, solidary and Samaritan Church, we propose: to streamline the extensive geographical areas of the Dioceses, Vicariates and “Prelacies”; create a an Amazonian fund for the support of evangelization; sensitize and stimulate international agencies of Catholic cooperation to support, beyond social projects, the activities of evangelization.
- In 2015, on commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops by Saint Paul VI, Pope Francis invited to renew synodal communion in the different levels of the life of the Church: local, regional and universal. The Church is developing a new understanding of synodality at the regional level. Leaning on tradition, the International Theological Commission said: “The regional level in the exercise of synodality is the one that happens in re-groupings of particular Churches present in a same region: a province — as happened especially in the first centuries of the Church — or a country, a Continent or part of it: (Document “Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church,” Vatican, 2018, 85). The exercise of synodality on this level reinforces the spiritual and institutional bonds, fosters the exchange of gifts and helps to plan common pastoral criteria. The joint work in the social pastoral of the dioceses located in countries’ borders must be strengthened to address common problems that surpass what is local, such as the exploitation of persons and of the territory, drug trafficking, corruption, human trafficking, etc. The migratory problem needs to be addressed in a coordinated way by the churches of the borders.
b. Universities and new Amazonian synodal structures
- We propose that an Amazonian Catholic University be established based on inter-disciplinary research (including field studies), in inculturation and in the inter-cultural dialogue; that inculturated theology includes joint formation for lay ministries and the formation of priests, based primarily on Sacred Scripture. Activities of research, education, and extension must include programs of environmental study (theoretical knowledge set with the wisdom of the peoples that live in the Amazonian region) and ethnic studies (description of the different languages, etc.). The formation of docents, the teaching and production of didactic material must respect the customs and traditions of the indigenous peoples, elaborating inculturated didactic material and carrying out extension activities in the different countries and regions. We ask the Catholic Universities of Latin America to help in the creation of the Amazonian Catholic University and to accompany its development.
c. Post-Synodal Regional Ecclesial Organism for the Amazonian Region
- We propose the creation of an episcopal organism that promotes synodality between the Churches of the region, that helps to delineate the Amazonian face of this Church and that continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially <by> incorporating the proposal of an integral ecology, thus enhancing the physiognomy of the Amazonian Church. It would be a permanent and representative episcopal organism that promotes synodality in the Amazonian region, articulated with CELAM, with its own structure, in a simple organization and articulated also with REPAM. In this way, it can be the effective channel to assume, from the territory of the Latin American and Caribbean Church, many of the proposals raised in this Synod. It would be the nexus that articulates ecclesial and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the Continental and International levels.
d. Rite for the native peoples
116. Vatican Council II opened spaces for liturgical pluralism, “for legitimate variations and adaptations for the different groups and peoples” (SC 38). In this connection, the liturgy must respond to the culture so that it is source and summit of the Christian life (Cf. SC 10) and for it to feel bound to the sufferings and joys of the people. We must give an authentically Catholic answer to the petition of Amazonian communities to adapt the liturgy, appreciating the native cosmo-vision, the traditions, the symbols and the rites that include transcendent, communal and ecological dimensions.
- There are 23 different Rites in the Catholic Church, clear sign of a tradition that, since the first centuries, has tried to inculturate the contents of the faith and its celebration through the most coherent language possible with the mystery that one wants to express. All these traditions have their origin in virtue of the mission of the Church: “The Churches of a same geographic and cultural ambit have come to celebrate the mystery of Christ with particular expressions, characterized culturally: in the tradition of the “deposit of faith,” in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries and in the different forms of sanctity: CCC 1202; cf. also CCC 1200-1206).
- It is necessary that the Church, in her tireless evangelizing endeavour, work so that the process of inculturation of the faith is expressed in more coherent ways, so that it can also be celebrated and lived according to the languages proper to the Amazonian peoples. It is urgent to form committees of translations and redaction of the biblical and liturgical texts in the languages proper to the different places, with the necessary resources, preserving the matter of the Sacraments and adapting them to the form, without losing sight of the essential. In this connection, it is necessary to foment music and singing, all of which is accepted and fostered by the liturgy.
- The new organism of the Church in Amazonia must establish a competent commission to study and dialogue, according to uses and customs of the ancestral peoples, the elaboration of an Amazonian rite, which expresses the Amazonian liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony, with special reference to what Lumen Gentium affirms for the Oriental Churches (cf. LG 23). This would be added to the rites already present in the Church, , enriching the work of evangelization, the capacity to express the faith in one’s own culture, and the sense of decentralization and collegiality that can express the catholicity of the Church. It could also study and propose how to enrich ecclesial rites with the way in which these peoples look after their territory and relate to its waters.
- We conclude under the protection of Mary, Mother of Amazonia, venerated with different names in the whole region. Through Her intercession, we ask that the Synod be a concrete expression of synodality, so that the full life that Jesus came to bring to the world (cf. Jn 10:10) reaches all, especially the poor, and contributes to the care of the “common home.” May Mary, Mother of Amazonia, accompany our walking; we consecrate to Saint Joseph, faithful custodian of Mary and of her Son Jesus, our ecclesial presence in Amazonia, Church with an Amazonian face and in a missionary going forth.
Voting on the Final Document