Here is the Zenit translation of the synod “small circle” report from the English/French group. On October 17, 2019, during the course of 13th General Congregation on the Amazon, the Reports of the 12 Minor Circles were presented. These ‘Minor Circles’ met in the recent General Congregations. Translations of all circles will be provided as soon as possible:
Rapporteur: His Most Revd. Excellency Mons. Emmanuel LAFONT
Moderator: His Most Revd. Eminence Card. Jean-Claude HOLLERICH, S.J.
In the first place, I would like to present to you a summary of our work last week. I do so following the five dimensions given by the Holy Father: pastoral, cultural, social, ecological and spiritual.
A. PASTORAL DIMENSION
1. This Synod Is Regional, but Also Universal
What is happening in Amazonia is also happening in the Congo Basin, in India, in the Far East of Asia, and in the whole world.
The developed countries have enriched themselves in large measure thanks to colonialism. They ignore this and hope to continue with their comfortable life. The question is: how to bring conversion to the former colonizers?
2. The Most Important Thing Is to Answer the Cries of the Peoples and of the Earth.
The Amerindians, who sometimes have bad memories of past evangelization, have been able to understand that, today, the Catholic Church can be one of its best partners in their struggle for rights and justice.
However, we must be careful not to make the Church an NGO, at the exclusive service of social justice. Some people trust us in regard to justice, education, health and, yet, they go to Pentecostal Churches to celebrate, to listen to the Word of God and to speak freely with God. The Catholic Church is seen as ritualistic and the Word doesn’t circulate. Spirituality is sought elsewhere.
3. A Current Church Instead of a Visiting Church
People’s fundamental petition is a ministry of presence, which is not a ministry of clerics. This is a baptismal ministry!
The evangelical accounts show us that the same happened to Jesus. The multitude came to Him to be healed and consoled.
The African Churches give an example: many lay catechists support their communities, direct liturgies, teach catechesis, practice charity to the poor. Their experience can inspire us to form the laity. It’s not a clerical Church.
4. A Church that Gives Witness of How Jesus Changes Our Life
Evangelicals propose to believers that they can give witness in a very personal way on how Jesus has transformed their life. It is a more positive focus than ours, which so often emphasizes our sinfulness more than Jesus’ salvation.
We were told the story of two villages in Thailand: one Evangelical, where people spent the whole of Sunday in church, sharing the Bible, discussing matters of the village. In the Catholic village, the people listen to the priest, the only one that speaks, and then they go home. There is nothing to share — it’s a clerical Church. We must learn from others.
5. Access to the Eucharist
Our proposals and reflections take place in the historical context of the local Churches from which we come. To speak of a “lack of priests” is specific of Churches where there were many priests in the past. So the situation is lived as a crisis.
In other places, such as in Africa, the number of priests has never been sufficient to offer Mass every Sunday. The Word is also food as is the Eucharist.
The word “priest” has many meanings. One who offers sacrifice doesn’t need to be the head of the community. He doesn’t have to be the parish priest. History and Theology have united too many things: teach, sanctify, govern . . .
B. CULTURAL DIMENSION
1. What Development?
It is integral development because it has been said: “An economy such as this — the present one — kills people and we must emphasize clearly that we can’t go on this way.”
For some of us, the Indians have all that they need. They are happy in their way of life if their life isn’t interfered with by our economic system.
Others stress that every culture is a living body, which is transformed in the course of its history and changes, such as with the issue of climate change, for example. They believe that all cultures must adapt. However, the rhythm of change can be different.
We can’t speak for the people; we can only accompany them.
2. In Search of “Good Living”
To find new ways of life, we need the wisdom of the indigenous peoples, as they need us to find their future. This can only be done if we live together. No one will survive alone.
The best way go be with them is to accept being accompanied by them. Let us be conscious of the fact that we have also been wounded; we all need to be healed from the past.
C. SOCIAL ASPECT
1. The People and the Earth Suffer a Devastating Violence
The real urgency is violence: people are suffering for their life, their rights, their land and their faith and by the powerful predators of their wealth.
We, the Bishops of Amazonia, are called to give witness to the world and to the universal Church of the suffering and the cries of the people and of the earth.
2. The Church’s Commitment to the Indigenous Peoples
In 1971, Saint Paul VI appealed to Brazilian Bishops to be next to the indigenous communities. Many have paid the price for it. It’s not negotiable. We must also do it.
The Church should take to governments the entreaty of the indigenous peoples. However, this task is difficult because it goes against the populist sentiments of the non-Amerindian communities.
D. ECOLOGICAL DIMENSION
The Church must be prophetic, but this isn’t sufficient. Some say that we need to meet with the government, the industrials and the mining and oil companies. Others say we must give example of a different way of life, more respectful of the earth, and that the “culture of leftovers “ must be rejected.
We must address the questions more directly. The climate will <get warmer> over the next twenty years. To avoid a greater <warming> we must eliminate CO2. How is this possible? We will do so by planting one hundred million trees. We are two thousand five hundred million Christians. Is it impossible? It’s very practical. Why don’t you ask for it?
Western culture has become so individualist; we are trapped in materialism,” we put ourselves first, our country first . . . The richest countries are also those that suffer the highest rate of suicides. Our wealth doesn’t make us happy.
We are called to a much more sober lifestyle, to reduce our consumption of red meat.
E. SPIRITUAL DIMENSION
1. The Spiritual Dimension of An Integral Ecology
We are not Greenpeace; we are the Church. Our task is to bring Jesus the Saviour to people.
The spiritual dimension of an Integral Ecology could be based on four principles, according to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
- To have a sacramental look on creation as reflection of God: cf. Psalm 103.
- To develop a Eucharistic spirit that thanks God for what He gives us: see Mathew 11:25-27.
- To enter in an ascetic ethics — sobriety of life: see Luke 4:1-13.
- To live in solidarity and fraternity with all: see Jon 6:1-14.
2. The Example of Jesus
We must follow Jesus’ steps, submerging ourselves in this world that God didn’t will to be as it is. Therefore, He came and began from the reality to save us.
We do so when we are with people, listening to them, curing their wounds, casting out devils, giving witness of Jesus’ power of salvation, sowing and sharing the Word of Life.
Saint Francis said: “We must evangelize at all times and, if necessary, with words.”
Our Contribution to This Synod
It is with this intense sharing, respecting our different points of view on some subjects, that we have prepared our contributions.
We feel we are in a point of profound inflection of our history. A synodal Church is a Church in which there is no longer a center from which all truth comes and that waters the Body in a uniform way. Jesus is the only center. We are Sister Churches, walking together and letting the Holy Spirit guide us to the full truth. No National or Continental Church can say the path to follow in another way. It must be synodal in the sense of listening to others and to the Holy Spirit.
We have prepared contributions that remind us that the Amazonian people have great expectations about this Synod. We must not defraud them. We must enter them in the prudent audacity of Him who says to us: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
We have made contributions so that the Amazonian Bishops can continue their synodal path in a more regular way and exercise fully their mission and responsibility, being close to their people and ready to take daring initiatives. They are the Successors of the Apostles!
We have made contributions to remind ourselves that we, Jesus’ disciples, must be the first to turn our back on this evil economic system, which disposes of thousands of millions of human beings to create goods and wealth for a few.
We have made contributions to celebrate as soon as possible as Blesseds and Saints the many Amerindian brothers and sisters and others that gave their lives, in the last fifty years in Amazonia, so that evil wouldn’t prevail against God’s children.
And “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands . . . Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20: 4 . . . 6).
Amen![Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]