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Pope wanted apostles' relics united to encourage Christian unity

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said giving fragments of St. Peter's bones to the head of the church founded by Peter's brother, St. Andrew, was meant to be a reminder and encouragement of the journey toward Christian unity.

In a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis explained in detail the reasons he sent him a bronze reliquary containing nine bone fragments in late June. The unexpected gift had been presented to Archbishop Job of Telmessos, the patriarch's representative, at the Vatican June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Addressing the patriarch as "Your holiness, dear brother," the pope wrote that he wanted to give the bones, believed to be St. Peter's, to the patriarch and "the beloved church of Constantinople over which you preside with such devotion."

"This gesture is intended to be a confirmation of the journey that our churches have made in drawing closer to one another: a journey at times demanding and difficult, yet one accompanied by evident signs of God's grace," he wrote. The letter, dated Aug. 30, was released by the Vatican Sept. 13.

During a moment of prayer and reflection about "our mutual determination to advance together toward full communion," the pope said he thought about their predecessors' historic meeting in Jerusalem more than 50 years ago and the gift Patriarch Athenagoras gave to St. Paul VI -- an icon depicting the brothers Peter and Andrew "embracing, united in faith and in love of their common Lord."

The apostles Peter and Andrew are the respective patron saints of the churches of Rome and Constantinople, and Pope Francis said he felt "it would be highly significant" for some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter to be placed beside the relics of the Apostle Andrew.

The fragments came from a funerary niche discovered in 1952 under the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica. While bones remain in the niche, St. Paul VI had nine fragments removed and placed in a special reliquary that was kept in his private chapel in the papal apartments.

The only time the bronze reliquary had been displayed publicly was in November 2013, when Pope Francis presented it for public veneration as he celebrated the closing Mass for the Year of Faith, opened by Pope Benedict XVI.

After Mass June 29 this year, Pope Francis brought Archbishop Job to the chapel of the old papal apartment and offered the reliquary to his guest as a gift for his "brother" Patriarch Bartholomew.

It was "another gigantic step toward concrete unity," Archbishop Job said.

The patriarch said he was "deeply moved" and described this "brave and bold initiative of Pope Francis" as a "grand, fraternal and historic gesture."

Pope Francis wrote in his letter, "The joining of the relics of the two brother apostles can also serve as a constant reminder and encouragement that, on this continuing journey, our divergences will no longer stand in the way of our common witness and our evangelizing mission in the service of a human family that today is tempted to build a purely secular future, a future without God."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Vatican officials offer guidance for German church gathering

IMAGE: CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The German bishops' plans for a two-year process of consultation and deliberation on key issues facing the Catholic Church must conform to universal church law and must be approved by the pope, said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect, sent a letter dated Sept. 4 to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and attached an analysis by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of proposed statutes for the German "synodal way."

The pontifical council said that, in proposing a process that would include "binding deliberations" on new rules for the church in Germany, the bishops were, in effect, planning a "plenary council," which would require prior approval by Pope Francis.

Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops' conference, said Sept. 13, "The assessment of the pontifical council deals with the draft version of the statutes as of June 2019 and does not yet take into account the version updated in July and after the meeting of the permanent council (of the bishops' conference) in August."

The most recent draft, he said, "no longer contains some passages to which the assessment refers." Kopp added that Cardinal Marx has been in touch with Cardinal Ouellet and would meet with him "in Rome next week to clear up any misunderstandings."

In his letter, which the German bishops posted on their website, Cardinal Ouellet referred to the letter Pope Francis wrote to German Catholics in June "to repeat some basic principles for an effective 'synodal journey' lived in harmony with the universal church."

Cardinal Ouellet said he hoped the pontifical council's assessment of the earlier statutes -- an assessment the German bishops also posted -- "could contribute to the regulation of the work of the 'synodal journey' so that such an important event for the people of God in Germany, celebrated in communion with the entire church, would reinforce the ecclesial roots and relaunch the evangelizing mission of the church in that country."

The German bishops began discussing plans for the gathering in September 2018 after they published a study that revealed an estimated 3,700 cases of sexual abuse had been reported in the German church from 1946 to 2014.

In response to the study and to a widespread sense that something needed to change, the bishops and Catholic lay leaders began discussing holding a national gathering of Catholics in a "synodal" style where the experience and voice of everyone would be welcome and where bishops wouldn't be the only ones making decisions.

The preparations focused on four key areas: the exercise of power and authority in the church; sexual morality; the priesthood, including the issue of mandatory celibacy; and the role of women in the church, including the possibility of opening more areas of ministry to them.

In response, the pontifical council asked, "How can a particular church deliberate in a binding way if the themes dealt with touch the entire church?"

The pontifical council also objected that the initial draft of the statutes seemed to imply that the bishops' conference and the lay Central Committee of German Catholics "are equal" and would send an equal number of participants, would share the duties of presiding over the assemblies and would have an equal vote.

"This equality between bishops and laypeople cannot exist ecclesiologically," the pontifical council said. While all Catholics are called to active participation in the church, "that does not mean that the church is structured democratically and that decisions are made by a majority of the faithful."

In a diocesan synod, a plenary council or the German "synodal way," the council said, study, consultation and decision-making are separate tasks belonging to different members of the church based on their role.

And, while the bishops are the only ones who can make binding decisions on most matters, if the question impacts the wider church, only the pope can decide, the pontifical council explained.

In his letter to German Catholics in June, Pope Francis insisted the process the German church is embarking upon must focus on strengthening people's faith and the church's witness.

In trying to resolve problems and shortcomings, the pope warned, there is the temptation to think that "the best response would be to reorganize things, to make changes and 'fixes' that would allow the life of the church to be put in order and in tune."

Instead, he said, the church must adopt an attitude that "seeks to live and make the Gospel transparent and breaks with the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church in which everything proceeds normally but, in reality, faith wears out and degenerates into pettiness."

In early September, meeting with the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Pope Francis said consultation with laypeople is an essential part of the deliberation of bishops, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively.

"There is a danger," the pope said, which is "thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of 'synodality' means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!"


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope Francis explains decision to give relics of St. Peter to Orthodox

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2019 / 05:11 am (CNA).- In a letter to Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Pope Francis has explained the unexpected gifting of a relic of St. Peter to the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church in June, a gesture which generated controversy among some Catholics.

The pope wrote to the ecumenical patriarch Aug. 30, saying the decision to give the relic was born out of prayer and intended as a sign of the ongoing work and prayer toward visible communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

Pope Francis gave the relic to a member of a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which attended a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul June 29.

After the Mass, Pope Francis brought Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Job to a chapel in the papal apartments and offered the chapel’s reliquary as a gift. The bronze box contains nine fragments from what are believed to be the bones of St. Peter in the necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

The box bears the inscription, “From the bones found in the hypogeum of the Vatican Basilica, which are believed to be of Blessed Peter the Apostle.”

When Pope St. Paul VI discovered St. Peter’s relics during excavations in 1939, he had the fragments removed to keep in the private chapel of the papal apartments.

“This gesture is intended to be a confirmation of the journey that our Churches have made in drawing closer to one another: a journey at times demanding and difficult, yet one accompanied by evident signs of God’s grace,” Francis wrote to Bartholomew Aug. 30.

“I sensed that this thought came to me from the Holy Spirit, who in so many ways prompts Christians to regain that full communion for which our Lord Jesus Christ prayed on the eve of his glorious Passion.”

Pope Francis said he was reflecting on the “mutual determination to advance together towards full communion,” and thought of a gift Patriarch Athenagoras gave to St. Paul VI of an icon of Saints Peter and Andrew embracing.

This icon, he said, “has become for us a prophetic sign of the restoration of that visible communion between our Churches to which we aspire and for which we fervently pray and work.”

“Hence, in the peace born of prayer, I sensed that it would be highly significant were some fragments of the relics of the Apostle Peter to be placed beside the relics of the Apostle Andrew, who is venerated as the heavenly patron of the Church of Constantinople.”

The Orthodox delegation brought the reliquary to Istanbul, where Monsignor Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, personally gave it to Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, as patriarch of Constantinople, is regarded as “first among equals” within the Orthodox communion and is seen by many as the worldwide leader of Orthodoxy.

Orthodox Archbishop Job called the gesture “another gigantic step towards concrete unity.”

Pope Francis wrote that the joining of the relics of Andrew and Peter can serve “as a constant reminder and encouragement that, on this continuing journey, our divergences will no longer stand in the way of our common witness and our evangelizing mission in the service of a human family that today is tempted to build a purely secular future, a future without God.”

Pope Francis to visit Thailand and Japan in November

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2019 / 03:40 am (CNA).- The Vatican confirmed Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Thailand and Japan in November with stops scheduled in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Pope Francis will visit Thailand Nov. 20-23 in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Vatican Mission to Siam in 1669. The pope will then travel Nov. 23-26 to Japan, where the theme of his visit is “Protect all life.”

In recent years, the Church has been working in Japan to respond to life issues and protect the most vulnerable. The Holy See Press Office said that the trip’s motto “protect all life” not only applies to respect for all human dignity, but also extends to the environment.

“In Japan today as well there are a pile of problems related to life and peace, in addition to the issues of economy, environment and relations with neighboring countries. Moreover, recovery from natural catastrophes and nuclear plant accidents remain as persisting problems,” according to the Vatican statement.

The papal trip to Japan has been much anticipated after Pope Francis told journalists in January he was planning to travel to the country. AP reported Sept. 13 that Pope Francis will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese Emperor Naruhito during his visit to the country.

Catholics in Japan make up less than 0.5% of the country’s population. Christianity was first introduced to Japan in the 16th century by Catholic missionaries, most notably St. Francis Xavier. In the years that followed the Catholics in Japan suffered many waves of fierce persecutions with hundreds martyred, including 26 canonized saints who were executed by crucifixion in 1597 in Nagasaki.

In Thailand, the small Catholic community -- representing less than 0.5% of the mostly Buddhist population --  has been celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Vatican Mission to Siam with events throughout 2019.

In May, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, celebrated Mass with four thousand Thai people in Sampran, outside of Bangkok.

“Asia is a sector of humanity rich in cultures and organized religions but with more than 85% of its members un-baptized,” Filoni said at the opening ceremony of the anniversary celebration.

“Asia is the missionary continent par excellence. The universal Church requests your willing cooperation for missionary activities in this vast continent,” he said.

“We need to reflect that our mission as baptized persons in Asia, is indeed a true mission...when the witnessing of our faith brings us into confrontation with the multitude of non-baptized persons, with their mentality and lifestyle, if not, at times, contrasting with the Gospel and the dignity of the person,” Filoni added.

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit both Japan and Thailand. St. John Paul II visited Thailand in 1984 and Japan in 1981. During his visit to Japan, St. John Paul II visited Tokyo,  Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, including a stop in the town of the Immaculata established by St. Maximilian Kolbe.

In 2019, Pope Francis has already visited nine other countries outside of Italy, including Panama, Morocco, Madagascar, Romania, and the United Arab Emirates.

On the return flight from his trip to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius in Africa earlier this week, the pope told journalists that he does plan to visit more European countries, but he will prioritize visits to smaller countries within Europe.

Academics object to pro-choice federal appointment in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 13, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The deans of five Argentine law schools have protested the appointment of a supporter of legalized abortion as Argentina’s Ombudsman for the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents since “it's a clear violation of the federal juridical order.”

On June 26 the Argentine House of Representatives confirmed Marisa Graham, a well-known abortion advocate in Argentina, to lead the nation’s Ombudsman's Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents.

Graham’s appointment now awaits confirmation by Argentina’s senate.

The signatories to a letter of objection are the deans of the law schools of the Argentina Catholic University, the Catholic University of  La Plata, the Saint Thomas Aquinas University of the North, the University del Salvador, and Fasta University.

Graham's “public and manifest advocacy in support of the legalization of abortion is discriminatory with respect to countless people who would be unprotected, helpless and deprived of the defense of their most elementary rights,” the deans said.

These rights are contained in the articles of the National Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Civil and Commercial Code.

The regulations recognize “that people's lives begin with conception and from that moment they are already children up to 18 years of age; that all children have the intrinsic right to life from conception and that their survival and development are to be guaranteed from that moment to the maximum extent possible, by the State and without any discrimination,” they said.

“The arguments invoked by Dr. Graham that her position on the legalization of abortion would not influence the exercise of her office are unsustainable, while it is not understood how she will defend the right to life of the unborn child, that they are persons according to the norms of the highest level in our legal system,” they warned.

The Ombudsman Office for Boys, Girls and Adolescents monitors public policies on childhood and ensures that the State guarantees compliance with the rights of minors.

This office has been vacant since it was created in 2005 with the Law on the Comprehensive Protection of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents.


This story was initially published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language partner agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Celebrating Catechists and those who enable them

Sometimes they are not visible to those who do not have children in religious education programs, but parish catechists are handing on the faith with devotion and professionalism. And almost all are volunteers!

Pope Francis urges new bishops to draw close to God and His people

Vatican City, Sep 12, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- As Pope Francis met Thursday with bishops ordained in the past year, he urged them to make time for an intimate relationship with God and for pastoral visits to people they serve.

“We need bishops capable of feeling the heartbeat of their communities and their priests, even from a distance: feel the pulse,” Pope Francis advised Sept. 12.

The pope urged “real availability” in the life of a bishop, pointing to the example of the Good Samaritan, who saw a need and did not look the other way.

“Stay in contact with people. Dedicate time to them more than at the desk. Don't fear contact with reality,” he said.

“In particular, I would like to encourage regular pastoral visits: to visit frequently, to meet people and pastors,” he said. “Visit, following the example of Mary, who wasted no time and got up to go quickly to her cousin. The Mother of God shows us that to visit is to bring near Him who makes one jump with joy, is to bring the comfort of the Lord who does great things among the humble.”

The new bishops are in Rome to participate in a formation course organized by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

“Every day, sparing no time, we must stand before Jesus and bring Him people, situations, like channels always open between Him and our people,” Pope Francis said.

“‘This is my Body offered for you’, we say at the highest moment of the Eucharistic offering for our people. Our life springs from here and leads us to become broken loaves for the life of the world,” he said.

Pope Francis said that without a close connection to Christ, it is easy to slip into the pessimistic mentality of those who say “everything is bad.”'

“Without this personal trust, without this intimacy cultivated every day in prayer, even and especially in the hours of desolation and aridity, the core of our episcopal mission crumbles,” he said.

“Only by being with Jesus we are preserved from the Pelagian presumption that good derives from our skill,” he added. “Only by staying with Jesus does the profound peace that our brothers and sisters seek from us reach our hearts.”

Pope Francis advised that living a simple life as a bishop serves as a witness that Christ is enough.

“The thermometer of closeness is attention to the least, to the poor, which is already an announcement of the Kingdom,” Francis said, noting “not the poor in the abstract with data and social categories, but concrete persons, whose dignity it is entrusted to us as their fathers.”

He said that bishops should be “apostles of listening,” listening even to what is not pleasant to hear. Francis advised the new bishops not to surround themselves with “yes men” or “climbing priests.”

“Please do not let fear of the risks of the ministry prevail, by turning away and keeping your distance,” he advised.

“God surprises us and often loves to upset our agenda: be prepared for this without fear,” Pope Francis added.

Pope Francis announces ‘global village’ alliance for education, environment

Vatican City, Sep 12, 2019 / 09:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis announced Thursday his newest initiative to form an international and interreligious alliance, which he described as “global village” to educate each child and promote care for the earth.

“Never before has there been such need to unite our efforts in a broad educational alliance, to form mature individuals capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the sake of a more fraternal humanity,” Pope Francis said in a video message announcing the educational initiative Sept. 12.

“I renew my invitation to dialogue on how we are shaping the future of our planet and the need to employ the talents of all, since all change requires an educational process aimed at developing a new universal solidarity and a more welcoming society,” he said.

The focal point of this initiative will be an international event hosted at the Vatican on May 14, 2020 on “Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance,” which “the most significant personalities of the political, cultural and religious world” will be invited to attend.

Pope Francis said that he chose May 2020 to mark the fifth anniversary of his environmental encyclical “Laudato si,” dated May 24, 2015 and later published on June 18 of that year.

The pope called for “an alliance … between the earth’s inhabitants and our ‘common home’, which we are bound to care for and respect. An alliance that generates peace, justice and hospitality among all peoples of the human family, as well as dialogue between religions.”

“According to an African proverb, ‘it takes a whole village to educate a child.’ We have to create such a village before we can educate,” Francis said.

“In this kind of village it is easier to find global agreement about an education that integrates and respects all aspects of the person, uniting studies and everyday life, teachers, students and their families, and civil society in its intellectual, scientific, artistic, athletic, political, business and charitable dimensions,” he said.

Pope Francis said that “the ground must be cleared of discrimination” to allow human fraternity to flourish in this “shared journey as an educating village.” He outlined several principles to reach these global objectives, including placing the human person at the center of a sound anthropology and training young people to readily offer themselves in service to the community.

The goal of the initiative is “to raise awareness and a wave of responsibility for the common good of humanity, starting from the young and reaching all men of good will,” according to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education spearheading the 2020 event.

The congregation said that Pope Francis’ proposal continues the tradition of Catholic commitment to education in schools and universities, as well as to intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

“Education reaches its goal if it can form people capable of walking together on the paths of encounter, dialogue and sharing, in respect, in esteem and in mutual acceptance,” states an explanatory note published by the Congregation for Catholic Education Sept. 12.

“Education is a formidable tool for consolidating a process of inclusion that extends to the entire human family,” it concludes.

The congregation describes how education should foster “ecological citizenship” ensuring that a greater “awareness of the gravity of the cultural and ecological crisis” will be “translated into new habits.”

The Congregation for Catholic Education will host a series of seminars leading up to the May 2020 educational alliance event. The first will take place Sept. 16-17 on “Democracy: An educational urgency in multi-cultural and multi-religious contexts.”

“I invite everyone to work for this alliance and to be committed, individually and within our communities, to nurturing the dream of a humanism rooted in solidarity and responsive both to humanity’s aspirations and to God’s plan,” Pope Francis said.

Dorian recovery work shows 'we are your brother's keeper,' says volunteer

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- As catastrophic as Hurricane Dorian was, the characteristic optimism of Bahamians will help soften the painful recovery to come, according to a hurricane-preparedness volunteer in Nassau.

"There was nothing we could have done to prepare (for Hurricane Dorian), but when you talk to me again five years from now, I will be happy to tell you we will be back on our feet again because we are very resilient people," said Basil Christie, a former religious education director for the Archdiocese of Nassau in the Bahamas.

Now a retired insurance executive, he said he regularly assists the Catholic Church with hurricane preparedness and recovery. He spoke by phone Sept. 10 with the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper.

Christie is a native of the Bahamas and for the past 15 years in his retirement, he has traveled to the country's many islands to coordinate and promote volunteer hurricane preparedness programs and follow-up recovery efforts after many lesser hurricanes touched parts of the nation.

He estimates that each year at least some part of the Bahamas has suffered hurricane damage and that although the country has high building code standards, Dorian's 200-mph wind gusts and considerable storm surge means those building codes will have to be revisited.

"Normally the maximum wind is 110 mph and restricted to the southern islands," he said.

Also, in previous years, hurricane winds blew off roofs, but Dorian blew homes off their foundations on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, "so it is a different situation," he added.

"There are lessons to be learned from this: Our building code needs to be augmented, and we will need better shelters," Christie said, adding that so many families have stories of watching family members get washed out to sea in the storm.

In the days since Hurricane Dorian, he has been helping coordinate volunteer efforts from Nassau, where cellphone communications are working, and he planned to travel soon to Grand Bahama Island.

He said evacuated families arriving in Nassau are being placed in ad hoc housing situations including gymnasiums, orphanages, convents, hostels and hotel rooms with sometimes four and five people to a room.

"We are having to create as we go," he said, noting that many evacuees have families in Nassau, but those who don't are staying in local Catholic and public schools.

Christie echoed concerns that the official death toll, at least 50 as of Sept. 12, is likely to soar, particularly from shantytown communities of undocumented people reportedly living in the Abaco Islands.

"There are a lot of dead bodies and it is the first time in our history that we had to initiate mass graves whereas others were simply taken out to sea by the (storm surge)," he added.

Christie praised the local generosity of business and organizations in the Bahamas, the international cruise lines as well as other Caribbean nations and agencies in Florida and the United States for sending material and financial support following the hurricane.

"This has brought out the good in people and the notion that we are your brother's keeper," Christie said.

"Naturally, the politicians are lashing out at the government, but an astonishing and overwhelming thing is that all these people are coming to Nassau and they are finding them a place to stay, " he said.

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Editor's Note: Donations for recovery efforts in the Bahamas can be sent to Catholic Relief Services here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Church must seek new paths in Amazon, synod secretaries say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will help the Catholic Church make its presence felt and voice heard in a region that is dangerously approaching "a point of no return," said the special secretaries of the synod.

"It is a great and continuing challenge for the Catholic Church to make the original Amazonian peoples feel part of it and contribute to it with the light of Christ and the spiritual richness that shines in their cultures," Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez De Aguirre Guinea wrote in an article published Sept. 12 in La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal.

Cardinal-designate Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Bishop Martinez, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, said the synod will take place at a time when "both human and natural life are suffering serious and perhaps irreversible destruction."

The synod, scheduled for Oct. 6-27, will focus on "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

As special secretaries, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez will assist Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes, synod relator general, in providing a comprehensive outline of the synod's theme at the beginning of the meeting and summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.

In the article, titled "Why the Amazon merits a synod," the prelates said that the synod for the Amazon is an effort to implement "'Laudato Si' in this fundamental human and natural environment."

Much like Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum" recognized the exploitation of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, Pope Francis' observations on the "gross inequality and cruel marginalization" caused by financial and consumerist greed call "for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment."

"This new synthesis is a wake-up call to the entire world, to all of humanity," they wrote. "But it also suggests a new socio-pastoral orientation and dynamic for the church, which must understand the challenges faced by individuals and families and groups within these various dimensions."

However, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez wrote that the church "cannot give spiritual guidance and pastoral care if people are understood in isolation from -- i.e. not integrated with -- how they live and function within the actual natural, economic and social conditions that they face."

They also noted that the crisis facing the region is not limited only to environmental problems such as pollution, privatization of natural goods and trafficking.

"Mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money" coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious "is endangering the presence of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon."

Such challenges, they added, require a response that moves from a "ministry of visits to a ministry of presence."

"This is why, during the October Synod, the entire world should walk with the people of the Amazon; not to expand or divert the agenda, but to help the synod to make a difference," the prelates wrote. "The Amazon region is huge, and its challenges are immense. If destroyed, the impacts will be felt worldwide."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]