Synod of Amazon 

A Moment of Grace and Kairos

Amazon…Amazon…When you hear the word "Amazon" what comes to your mind first? What do you think of when you hear "Amazon"? Usually, when I tell my friends that I am in Brazil in the Amazon region for my mission, some of them ask me “Have you seen Anacondas there?" 

Perhaps they had seen it in the movies. Answering this question and other questions I received is my opportunity to share what I see and what I experience living in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil for almost 9 years as a Lay Missionary. During these years, I have lived in different areas and realities, which help me to understand more the territory and its people. Amazon is more than what the movies show.

The Amazon Basin encompasses one of our planet’s largest reserves of biodiversity (30% to 50% of the world's flora and fauna) and freshwater (20% of the world's fresh water). It constitutes more than a third of the planet's primeval forests and – although the oceans are the largest carbon sinks – the Amazon’s work of carbon sequestration is quite significant. It covers more than seven and a half million square kilometers, and 9 countries share this great Biome (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, including French Guyana as an overseas territory) - (cf. Preparatory Document #1). Both the biome and its people living in the Amazon are under threat in different situations caused by “a blind and destructive mentality that favors profit to justice”, using the words of Pope Francis. And we all have to remember that we are all interconnected. Whatever happens to the Amazon will affect the whole world. 

Last October 15, 2017, Pope Francis proclaimed in the Vatican the Special Assembly of the Synods of Bishops with the theme The Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology that will be held in October 2019 in Rome. The theme helps us to see and reflect as a church on our approach to evangelization in the Amazon. As a church how is our presence with the people of the Amazon and their realities? It invites us to listen and defend the cry of the earth and of the poor which are inseparable.

With the Preparatory Document of the synod, the process of listening like assemblies, forums and “roda de conversa” (exchange circles) happened in different parts of nine (9) countries and other countries outside the Amazon. Based on the information of the Process Synodal Consultation facilitated by REPAM, Red Eclesial Pan-Amazonico (REPAM - Panamazonian Eclesial Network) almost 87,000 people participated in the process of listening. In this process, the participants, which included Indigenous, fishermen, farmers, migrants, youth, groups of women, afro-descendants, religious men/women, priests, bishops, peasants, those who live in the big city and peripheries, were able to express and share their realities of the church communities and in the society where they belong. They were able to discern and suggest how the Catholic Church can be a church with an Amazonian face with new ways for Integral Ecology.

Being part of the team of REPAM, specifically with the team of the Formation and Pastoral Methods from a Pan-Amazonian and Itinerant Perspective, we were able to collaborate and participate in some of the process of listening that happened here in Manaus, especially in the assembly of the youth. I remember in this assembly a young Indigenous expressed that the Catholic Church had given the catechesis but had abandoned them. The Church was not present when they needed it most. I know and understand that she did not mean the church in general but it was based on her people`s experience. Yet her statement made me reflect and I realized the importance of presence in the lives of the people to whom we are sent. The bishops, priests, religious men/women, missionaries and the pastoral agents will not just go to the communities to give them catechesis or let them memorize prayers and doctrines, but the most important aspect is learning, feeling, and thanking together the loving presence of God in our lives through the presence of  each other, the nature that surrounds us, and the spiritualities of different people. And also, being present in among the people of the communities in their struggles for their rights that most of the time are disrespected by those who have a high position in the government.

That is one of the challenges  of the Synod for the church, that  “The reality of the local churches requires a participative Church that makes itself present in the social, political, economic, cultural and ecological life of its inhabitants; a welcoming Church hospitable to cultural, social and ecological diversity in order to be able to serve individuals or groups without discrimination; a creative Church that can accompany its people in fashioning new responses to urgent needs; and a Church of harmony that fosters the values of peace, mercy and communion (cf. Working document #112). 

In this process of the synod, what really inspires is how people unite and work together to listen to the voice of God through the voice of the Amazon. Let us unite our prayers that the Holy Trinity continue to guide the hearts and minds of all the bishops and all those who are going to participate in the Assembly of Bishops in October as they dialogue in seeking new ways for the Church and for an Integral Ecology. With the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; “Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom." (cf. Laudato Si’ #241). Let us be grateful to God for this moment of grace and moment of Kairos that the Amazon is experiencing.

As missionaries “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope." (cf. Laudato Si’ #244).

Luningning Alvarado, Lay missionary from the Philippines,assigned in Brazil.