“Pope Francis has again surprised the world with his long-awaited document (“Apostolic Exhortation”) in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod, issued today, 12th February 2020. In the text known as “Querida Amazonia” (“Beloved Amazonia”) he pitches hard for justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests, against the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.
He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them”, so writes Gerard O’Connell is America Magazine’s Vatican correspondent. See full article HERE
See Full Text of the Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia” (“Beloved Amazonia”) HERE
What’s in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation?
Almost half of the document is devoted to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organisation, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay”.
He emphasizes the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, at the same time, highlights the disturbing fact that this is not regularly available to so many communities; some do not have the Eucharist for months or years, others not “for decades” because of the shortage of priests.
Pope Francis does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of mature married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod. He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it, not even in a footnote.
It is important to note that Francis addresses his 15,000-word exhortation “to the whole world” because he believes the main issues being dealt with here are of concern to “the People of God and to All Persons of Good Will” and he wants to “awaken their affection and concern” for Amazonia. He says the church’s concern for the region’s problems “obliges us to discuss” these important issues.
Pope Francis explains that this text:
“sets forth the conclusions of the Synod, which profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately.” Moreover, he says, “I have preferred not to cite the Final Document in this Exhortation, because I would encourage everyone to read it in full.”
Francis presents all this in a highly original, at times poetic exhortation, as he elaborates on the “four great dreams” that, he says, “the Amazon inspires in me.” The four dreams are “social,” “cultural,” “ecological” and “ecclesial.”
‘The Four Great Dreams’
- His first dream is a “social” one: “I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced.”
- Speaking of his second dream, “a cultural dream,” he says, “I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.”
- Francis’ third dream is “ecological.” He says, “I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.”
- Speaking of his fourth dream, “an ecclesial dream,” Francis reveals, “I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region, and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features.”
Addressing the inculturation of the liturgy, Francis emphasizes that the Eucharist “joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation.” In this sense, he asserts:
“encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature,” rather “it means that we can take up into the liturgy many elements proper to the experience of indigenous peoples in their contact with nature, and respect native forms of expression in song, dance, rituals, gestures and symbols.” He recalls that “the Second Vatican Council called for this effort to inculturate the liturgy among indigenous peoples; over fifty years have passed and we still have far to go along these lines.”
Then, in a footnote (No. 120), he adds, “the synod made a proposal to develop an Amazonian rite.”
Pope Francis devotes a section of the exhortation to women. He recalls that in the Amazon region:
“there are communities that have long preserved and handed on the faith even though no priest has come their way, even for decades.” He says this, and similar instances involving women, “summons us to broaden our vision, lest we restrict our understanding of the Church to her functional structures. Such a reductionism would lead us to believe that women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders. But that approach would in fact narrow our vision; it would lead us to clericalise women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.”
He recalls that “the Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary” and says “women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother. As a result, we do not limit ourselves to a functional approach, but enter instead into the inmost structure of the Church.”
Pope Francis says, “the present situation requires us to encourage the emergence of other forms of service and charisms that are proper to women and responsive to the specific needs of the peoples of the Amazon region at this moment in history.”
Mother of the Amazon Region
At the conclusion of this exhortation, Pope Francis writes:
111. After sharing a few of my dreams, I encourage everyone to advance along concrete paths that can allow the reality of the Amazon region to be transformed and set free from the evils that beset it. Let us now lift our gaze to Mary. The Mother whom Christ gave us is also the one Mother of all, who reveals herself in the Amazon region in distinct ways. We know that “the indigenous peoples have a vital encounter with Jesus Christ in many ways; but the path of Mary has contributed greatly to this encounter”. Faced with the marvel of the Amazon region, which we discovered ever more fully during the preparation and celebration of the Synod, I consider it best to conclude this Exhortation by turning to her:
Mother of life,
in your maternal womb Jesus took flesh,
the Lord of all that exists.
Risen, he transfigured you by his light
and made you the Queen of all creation.
For that reason, we ask you, Mary, to reign
in the beating heart of Amazonia.
Show yourself the Mother of all creatures,
in the beauty of the flowers, the rivers,
the great river that courses through it
and all the life pulsing in its forests.
Tenderly care for this explosion of beauty.
Ask Jesus to pour out all his love
on the men and women who dwell there,
that they may know how to appreciate and care for it.
Bring your Son to birth in their hearts,
so that he can shine forth in the Amazon region,
in its peoples and in its cultures,
by the light of his word,
by his consoling love,
by his message of fraternity and justice.
And at every Eucharist,
may all this awe and wonder be lifted up
to the glory of the Father.
Touch the hearts of the powerful,
for, even though we sense that the hour is late,
you call us to save
what is still alive.
Mother whose heart is pierced,
who yourself suffer in your mistreated sons and daughters,
and in the wounds inflicted on nature,
reign in the Amazon,
together with your Son.
Reign so that no one else can claim lordship
over the handiwork of God.
We trust in you, Mother of life.
Do not abandon us
in this dark hour.
(Given in Rome, at the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran, on 2 February, in the year 2020, the seventh of my Pontificate).