Here is a first 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 introduction and first 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.
CHAPTER I: AMAZONIA: FROM LISTENING TO INTEGRAL CONVERSION
CHAPTER II: NEW WAYS OF PASTORAL CONVERSION
CHAPTER III: NEW WAYS OF CULTURAL CONVERSION
CHAPTER IV: NEW WAYS OF ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION
CHAPTER V: NEW WAYS OF SYNODAL CONVERSION
- “And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new. And he said: ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true!’” (Rev 21:5)
After a long synodal path of listening of the People of God in the Church of Amazonia, which Pope Francis opened on his visit to Amazonia on January 19, 2018, the Synod was held in Rome in a fraternal meeting of 21 days in October 2019. The atmosphere was one of open, free and respectful exchange of the Bishops Pastors in Amazonia, men and women missionaries, laymen and laywomen, and representatives of the indigenous peoples of Amazonia. We were witnesses taking part in an ecclesial event marked by the urgency of the subject, which calls for opening new pathways for the Church in the territory. Serious work was shared in an atmosphere marked by the conviction of listening to the voice of the Spirit present.
The Synod was held in a fraternal and prayerful environment. The interventions were accompanied several times by applause, singing and all with profound contemplative silences. Outside the Synodal Hall, there was a notable presence of persons from the Amazonian world, who organized events of support in different activities, processions, such as the opening with songs and dances accompanying the Holy Father, from the tomb of Peter to the Synodal Hall. The Via Crucis of the martyrs of Amazonia was impressive, in addition to the massive presence of the international media.
2. All the participants expressed an acute awareness of the dramatic situation of destruction that affects Amazonia. This means the disappearance of the territory and its inhabitants, especially the indigenous peoples. The Amazonian forest is a “biological heart” for the earth, which is increasingly threatened. It finds itself in an unbridled race to death. It requires radical changes with utmost urgency, <a> new direction that will enable it to be saved. It is proved scientifically that the disappearance of the Amazonian biome will have a disastrous impact on the whole of the planet!
3. The synodal journey of the People of God in the preparatory stage involved the whole Church in the territory, the Bishops, men and women missionaries, members of the Churches of other Christian Confessions, laymen, and laywomen, and many representatives of the indigenous peoples around the consultation document that inspired the Instrumentum Laboris. It highlights the importance of listening to the voice of Amazonia, moved by the greater breath of the Holy Spirit in the cry of the wounded earth and its inhabitants. Noted was the active participation of over 87,000 persons, of different cities and cultures, in addition to numerous groups of other ecclesial sectors and the contributions of academics and organizations of the civil society on the main specific subjects.
4. The holding of the Synod was able to highlight the integration of the voice of Amazonia with the voice of the thinking of the participant Pastors. It was a new experience of listening to discern the voice of the Spirit that leads the Church to new ways of presence, evangelization and inter-cultural dialogue in Amazonia. The claim, which arose in the preparatory process, that the Church is allied to the Amazonian world, was forcefully affirmed. The celebration ended with great joy and the hope to embrace and practice the new paradigm of integral ecology, the care of the “common home” and the defense of Amazonia.
AMAZONIA: FROM LISTENING TO INTEGRAL CONVERSION
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1)
5. ”Christ points to Amazonia” (Paul VI, attrib.). He liberates all from sin and grants the dignity of the Children of God. The listening of Amazonia, in the spirit proper of the disciple and in the light of the Word of God and of Tradition, drives us to a profound conversion of our schemes and structures to Christ and to His Gospel.
The voice and song of Amazonia as message of life.
- In Amazonia, life is inserted, linked and integrated into the territory, which as a physical, vital and nutritional area, is possibility, sustenance, and limit of life. Amazonia, also called Pan-Amazonia, is an extensive territory with a population estimated at 33,600,000 inhabitants, of whom between 2 and 2.5 million are Indians. This area, made up of the Basin of the Amazon River and all its tributaries, is extended around nine countries: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guyana. The Amazonian region is essential for the distribution of rains in the regions of South America and it contributes to the great movements of air around the planet; at present, it is the second most vulnerable area of the world, by man’s action, in relation to climate change.
- This region’s water and earth nourish and sustain nature, life and the cultures of hundreds of indigenous communities, peasants, Afro-descendants, mestizos, settlers, riverine people and inhabitants of urban centers. Water, source of life, has a rich symbolic meaning. In the Amazonian region, the cycle of water is the connecting pivot; it connects ecosystems, cultures and the territory’s development.
- There is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural reality in the Amazonian region. The different peoples were able to adapt to the territory. They built and rebuilt within each culture their cosmo-vision, their signs and their meanings, and the vision of their future. In the indigenous cultures and peoples, ancient practices and mythical explanations coexist with modern technologies and challenges. The faces that dwell in Amazonia are very varied. In addition to the native peoples, there is great miscegenation born with the meeting and mix-up of different peoples.
- The search of the Amazonian indigenous peoples for life in abundance is made concrete in what they call “good living,” and it is fully realized in the Beatitudes. It’s about trying to live in harmony with oneself, with nature, with human beings, and with the Supreme Being, given that there is an inter-communication between the whole cosmos, where there are no excluding ones or excluded, and where we can forge a project of full life for all. Such an understanding of life is characterized by the connectivity and harmony of relations between water, the territory and nature, communal life and culture, God and the different spiritual forces. For them, “good living” is to understand the centrality of the transcendent relational character of human beings and of Creation, and it implies “good living.” This integral way is expressed in their way of organizing themselves, which starts from the family and the community, and encompasses a responsible use of all the goods of creation. The indigenous peoples aspire to achieve better conditions of life, especially in health and education, to enjoy sustainable development led and discerned by themselves and that keeps the harmony in their traditional ways of life, dialoguing between the wisdom and technology of their forebears and the technologies acquired.
The Clamour of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor
10. However, Amazonia today is a wounded and deformed beauty, a place of pain and violence. The attacks against nature have negative consequences on peoples’ life This unique socio-environmental crisis was reflected in the pre-synodal listening sessions, which pointed out the following threats against life: appropriation and privatization of nature’s goods, such as water itself, legal logging concessions and the entry of illegal logging; predatory hunting and fishing; unsustainable mega-projects (hydroelectric projects, forest concessions, massive felling, monocultures, highways, waterways, trains and mining and oil projects; contamination caused by extractive industries and cities’ dumps and, above all, climate change. They are real threats that bring with them serious social consequences: sicknesses stemming from contamination, drug trafficking, illegal armed groups, alcoholism, violence against women, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, the sale of organs, sexual tourism, loss of the original culture and of identity (language, spiritual practices and customs), criminalization and murder of leaders and defenders of the territory. Behind all this are the economic and political interests of the dominant sectors, with the complicity of some rulers and some indigenous authorities. The victims are the most vulnerable sectors, children, young people, women and Sister Mother Earth.
11. For its part, the scientific community warns about the risks of deforestation, which to date is close to 17% of the total Amazonian forest, and which threatens the survival of the whole eco-system, putting in danger bio-diversity and changing the vital cycle of water for the survival of the tropical forest. In addition, Amazonia also has a critical role as shock absorber against climate change; it offers invaluable and fundamental systems of vital support related to air, water, soils, forests, and the biomass. At the same time, experts remind that by using science and advanced technologies for an innovative bio-economy of standing forests and of flowing rivers, it is possible to help save the tropical forest, to protect Amazonia’s eco-systems and the indigenous and traditional peoples and, at the same time, to offer sustainable economic activities.
12. A phenomenon to address is migrations. In the Amazonian Regions, there are three simultaneous migratory processes. In the first place, the cases of the mobility of indigenous groups in territories of traditional circulation, separated by national and international borders. In the second place, the forced displacement of indigenous peoples, peasants and riverine people expelled from their territories, and whose final destiny is usually the poorest areas and worse urbanized <areas> of the cities. In the third place, the inter-regional forced migrations and the phenomenon of refugees who, obliged to leave their countries (among others, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba) must cross Amazonia as a migratory corridor.
13. The displacement of indigenous groups expelled from their territories and attracted by the false shine of the urban culture represents a unique specificity of the migratory movements in Amazonia. The cases in which the mobility of these groups takes place in territories of traditional indigenous circulation, separated by national and international borders, calls for trans-border pastoral care able to understand the right to the free circulation of these peoples. Human mobility in Amazonia reveals the impoverished and hungry face of Jesus Christ (Cf. Mt. 25:35), expelled and homeless (Cf. Lk 3:1-3), and also the feminization of migration that makes thousand of women vulnerable to human trafficking, one of the worst forms of violence against women and one of the most perverse violations of human rights. Human trafficking linked to migration requires permanent network pastoral work.
14. The life of Amazonian communities not yet affected by the influx of Western civilization, is reflected in the belief and rites about the action of the spirits of the divinity, called in innumerable ways, with and in the territory, with and in relation with nature (LS 16, 91, 117, 138, 240). Let us acknowledge that for thousands of years they have looked after the earth, its waters, and forests, and have succeeded in preserving them up to today so that humanity can benefit from the enjoyment of the free gifts of God’s Creation. The new pathways of evangelization must be built on dialogue with this fundamental knowledge, in which it is manifested as seeds of the Word.
The Church in the Amazonian Region
15. In her process of listening to the clamor of the territory and the cry of the peoples, the Church must recall her steps. Evangelization in Latin America was a gift of Providence that calls all to salvation in Christ. Despite the military, political and cultural colonization, and beyond the avarice and ambition of the colonizers, there were many missionaries who gave their life to transmit the Gospel. The missionary sense not only inspired the formation of Christian communities but also legislation such as the Laws of the Indies, which protected the dignity of the Indians against the trampling of their peoples and territories. Such abuses caused wounds in the communities and clouded the message of Good News. Frequently the proclamation of Christ was done in connivance with the powers that exploited the resources and oppressed the populations. At present, the Church has the historic opportunity to differentiate herself from the new colonizing powers, by listening to the Amazonian peoples to be able to exercise with transparency in her prophetic activity. Moreover, the socio-environmental crisis opens new opportunities to present Christ in all His liberating and humanizing potential.
16. The martyrs wrote one of the most glorious pages of Amazonia. The participation of the followers of Jesus in his Passion, Death and Glorious Resurrection, has accompanied the life of the Church up to today, especially in time and places in which she, because Jesus’ Gospel, lives in the midst of an accentuated contradiction, as happens today with those who fight courageously in favor of an integral ecology in Amazonia. This Synod acknowledges with admiration those that fight with great risk to their lives, to defend the existence of this territory.
Called to An Integral Conversion
17. The listening to the clamor of the earth and the cry of the poor and of the peoples of Amazonia with those that walk with us, calls us to a true integral conversion, with a simple and sober life, all nourished by a mystical spirituality in the style of Saint Francis of Assisi, example of integral conversion with joy and Christian enjoyment (Cf. LS 20-120. A prayerful reading of the Word of God will help us to reflect further and discover the groans of the Spirit and will encourage us in the commitment to look after the “common home.”
18. As Church, we, the missionary disciples, implore the grace of this conversion which “implies to let all the consequences blossom of the encounter with Jesus Christ in relations with the world that surrounds us” (LS 217); a personal and communal conversion which commits us to relate harmoniously with God’s creative work, which is the “common home,” a conversion that promotes the creation of structures in harmony with the care of Creation; a pastoral conversion based on synodality, which recognizes the interaction of the whole of Creation. A conversion that leads us to be a Church going forth that enters in the heart of all the Amazonian peoples.
19, So, the only conversion to the living Gospel, which is Jesus Christ, will be able to unfold in inter-connected dimensions to motivate going out to the existential, social and geographic peripheries of Amazonia. These dimensions are the pastoral, the cultural, the ecological and the synodal, which are developed in the following four chapters.
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester