The afternoon session saw the election, by absolute majority, of the four members of the Commission for the elaboration of the Final Document of the Synod. They are: Bishop Mario Antonio Da Silva of Roraima in Brazil; Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M. of Trujillo and President of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference; Bishop Nelson Jair Cardona Ramírez of San José del Guaviare in Colombia; and Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia.
Pope to choose three other members
Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City, was initially elected but said he preferred to relinquish his position to a Synod Father from one of the seven Episcopal Conferences directly involved in the Amazon Region. The elected Bishops join those already part of the Commission, namely: the President, Cardinal Claudio Hummes; the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri; the pro-Secretary General, Bishop Mario Grech; the two special secretaries: Cardinal Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez de Aguirre Guinea. The Pope will name three other members in the next few days.
Election of Members of the Information Committe
Four members of the Information Committee were then elected by separate ballots with a relative majority. They are: Bishop Erwin Kräutler, C.Pp.S., prelate emeritus of Xingu, Brazil; Bishop Rafael Cob García, Apostolic Vicar of Puyo, Ecuador; Bishop José Ángel Divassón Cilveti, S.D.B., former Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Ayacucho in Venezuela; and Italian Father Antonio Spadaro, Director of “La Civiltà Cattolica”. The latter join the team led by Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and the Secretary, Father Giacomo Costa; the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni; the Editorial Director of the Dicastery for Communication, Andrea Tornielli; Sister Maria Ines Lopes dos Santos, Councillor of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil, and Mauricio López Oropeza, Executive Secretary of the Ecclesial Pan-Amazon Network.
Greta Thunberg and young people as protagonists
The Synod Fathers then intervened on different points of the Instrumentum Laboris. In continuity with the Synod on Youth of 2018, they reflected on the importance of young people as protagonists of an integral ecology. They cited the example of the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg and the climate strike initiative. The “option for young people”, and the need to dialogue with them on issues of the protection of Creation, were mentioned several times, along with the need to enhance the social commitment of youth who can encourage the Church to be prophetic in this area. Young hearts, it was said, want to build a better world, because young people represent a social doctrine on the move. More than many others, young people today feel the need to establish a new relationship with Creation, a relationship that is not exploitative, but attentive to the suffering of the planet. For this reason, the environmental theme, which is also ecumenical and interreligious, should be seen by the Church as a positive challenge. It is an invitation to dialogue with young people, to help them in their discernment. In this way, their commitment to protecting Creation is not only a “green and fashionable” slogan, but really becomes a question of life and death, for humanity and for the planet.
A number of Synod Fathers called for the protection of groundwater from chemical contamination resulting from multinational productivity, so that indigenous peoples can survive by preserving their culture and following new paths of evangelization. The massive industrial mining activities were mentioned in several interventions, with particular concern for the abuses committed by some companies, which have serious consequences for indigenous peoples. For this reason, the Bishops repeatedly called for the need to respect both human and environmental rights, because a true integral ecology requires a new balance between humanity and nature.
Fossil fuels and the climate
The Synod also looked at the climate changes that are distorting Creation. It was agreed that climate is a global good, one that must be protected and preserved for future generations. It was suggested we stop using fossil fuels, especially in the most industrialized countries, which are the main polluters. Other reflections included the need to overcome those forms of colonialism that have characterized much of past centuries, in favour of preserving the cultural identities of the Amazon: every culture, in fact, makes its contribution to the universality of the Church, constituted by respect and complementarity. Quoting Saint John Paul II, the Synod Fathers said that Christ animates the centre of every culture. Because the Church is a complex ecosystem with a “marvellous spiritual biodiversity” that is expressed in various communities, cultural expressions, forms of consecrated life and ministries. Several times, St Paul was cited as the first Apostle of inculturation, the one who became “Greek among the Greeks”.
The Synod also agreed there is room for reflection on indigenous rites. The Church looks positively on anything that is not linked to superstition, and as long as it is in harmony with the true liturgical spirit. The suggestion was made to begin a process in the Amazon that involves sharing the experiences of indigenous communities that have inculturated celebrations for certain Sacraments, such as baptism, marriage, or priestly ordination. In this way, one of the proposals put forward was to think of establishing ad experimentum, and according to the appropriate theological, liturgical, and pastoral discernment, a Catholic Amazonian rite to live and celebrate faith in Christ. Just as there is an environmental ecosystem, there is also an ecclesial ecosystem too.
The viri probati
Finally, a few interventions focused on the question of the so-called “viri probati”. These are mentioned in the Synod Working Document as one of the proposals for ensuring the Sacraments, where there is a particular shortage of priests. Some interventions described this as a legitimate necessity, but not one that can condition a substantial rethinking of the nature of the priesthood and its relationship with celibacy, provided for by the Church of the Latin rite. It was suggested, instead, that vocational pastoral work be carried out among indigenous young people, in order to encourage evangelization even in the most remote areas of the Amazon. In this way, there will be no “first class Catholics” who have easy access to the Eucharist, and “second class Catholics” who are denied the Eucharist, sometimes for at least two years.