Pope: an 'indigenous' Church in the Amazon, but without married priests or women deacons

The post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Querida Amazonia" has been published. A Church alongside the oppressed, who are often indigenous, that respects its cultural traditions, safeguards the environment and people at the same time, proposes sustainable development and strives to propose Jesus in an immense and varied territory, also giving lay people , including women, larger spaces within communities.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A Church alongside the oppressed, often indigenous, a that respects its cultural traditions, safeguards the environment and people at the same time, proposes sustainable development and strives to propose Jesus in an immense and varied territory, also giving lay people, including women, larger spaces within communities. However, a Church that leaves to priests what is exclusive to the sacred Order: the celebration of the Eucharist, absolution from sins and also the anointing of the sick.

The post-synodal apostolic exhortation, "Querida Amazonia" was made public today. It is in essence a long document - 28 pages in the original edition, in Spanish - in which Pope Francis speaks of his "dreams" for the Amazon: social, cultural and ecclesial dreams which consist in "developing a Church with an Amazonian face". Under this banner the majority of the Synod hypothesized priestly ordination for permanent deacons, even if married.

Yet Francis does not share this hypothesis - even if he affirms that he does not intend to replace or repeat the final document of the Synod - while hoping for greater roles for the laity, men and women, and remembering (in note 136) that canon law provides for the possibility of entrust "the pastoral care of a parish" to a non-priest.

"The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all its splendour, its drama and its mystery". These are the first words of the document articulated on Francis' "four great dreams": that the Amazon "fight for the rights of the poor", “preserve its distinctive cultural riches", "jealously preserve its irresistible natural beauty" and that has Christian communities "capable of being committed and incarnate".

At the heart of Francis' thought, in this document, there is the concept of integral ecology. Thus, in the first chapter, dedicated to the "social dream", it is stated that "a true ecological approach" is also a "social approach", "to listen to both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor". There is the denunciation of colonialism, "old and new", of those " colonizing interests that have continued to expand – legally and illegally – the timber and mining industries, and have expelled or marginalized the indigenous peoples, the river people and those of African descent, are provoking a cry that rises up to heaven". And next to the appreciation for the "good life" of the original peoples, there is a warning against "conservationism" that cares only about the environment, while an "Amazonian mystique" presents the Amazon " as an enormous empty space to be filled, a source of raw resources to be developed, a wild expanse to be domesticated. None of this recognizes the rights of the original peoples; it simply ignores them as if they did not exist, or acts as if the lands on which they live do not belong to them".

In the face of all this, "networks of solidarity and development" are needed which call for the commitment of everyone, including politicians.

Francis’ "cultural dream" calls for respect for a land that should not be "culturally colonized". Addressing young people in particular, the document asks to "take charge of the roots". As for the factors of cultural weakness, he notes, " Western urban cultures have them as well. Factors like consumerism, individualism, discrimination, inequality, and any number of others represent the weaker side of supposedly more developed cultures. The ethnic groups that, in interaction with nature, developed a cultural treasure marked by a strong sense of community, readily notice our darker aspects, which we do not recognize in the midst of our alleged progress. Consequently, it will prove beneficial to listen to their experience of life."

In any project for the Amazon, then, "it is necessary to take the perspective of the rights of peoples". These "can hardly be protected from harm" if the environment in which they were born and developed "deteriorates".

And we are in the ecological dream, an ecology that combines care for the environment and care for people, especially the poor. We need a sustainable development project. " The equilibrium of our planet also depends on the health of the Amazon region". For this reason "the cry of the Amazon region reaches everyone because “the conquest and exploitation of resources… has today reached the point of threatening the environment’s hospitable aspect: the environment as ‘resource’ risks threatening the environment as ‘home’”. The interest of a few powerful industries should not be considered more important than the good of the Amazon region and of humanity as a whole."

The goal of sustainable development requires that the inhabitants are always informed about the projects that concern them and hopes for the creation of "a regulatory system" with "inviolable limits".

Finally, an integral ecology “an integral ecology cannot be content simply with fine-tuning technical questions or political, juridical and social decisions. The best ecology always has an educational dimension that can encourage the development of new habits in individuals and groups. Sadly, many of those living in the Amazon region have acquired habits typical of the larger cities, where consumerism and the culture of waste are already deeply rooted. A sound and sustainable ecology, one capable of bringing about change, will not develop unless people are changed, unless they are encouraged to opt for another style of life, one less greedy and more serene, more respectful and less anxious, more fraternal."

Finally, the ecclesial dream is to develop a Church with an "Amazonian face".

Having said that there is no mention of ordination for married men, there does not seem to be space even for women deacon, which was also discussed at the Synod. The document asks for more space for women, recalls that "in the Amazon some communities supported themselves only thanks to the presence of strong and generous women", while ordained women deacons "would lead us to clericalize women," thus "diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.”

The ecclesial dream focuses on a "great missionary announcement", "indispensable in the Amazon". In fact, the people of the Amazon have "the right to announce the Gospel", otherwise "every ecclesial structure will become" an NGO. In this regard, the document contains the exhortation to "Bishops not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region. "It is noteworthy that, in some countries of the Amazon Basin, more missionaries go to Europe or the United States than remain to assist their own Vicariates in the Amazon region."

In the evangelization of the Amazon, then, the values ​​present in the original communities must be taken into account. An inculturation that also concerns the liturgy. The chapter ends with the theme of "ecumenical and interreligious coexistence". The Pope makes a strong appeal with the following words: "How can we not struggle together? How can we not pray and work together, side by side, to defend the poor of the Amazon". (FP)