THE AMAZON, VOICES THAT CHALLENGE US

 “…here below, near the roots
is where we lose not a single memory,
there are those who rise and those who struggle
and so many together can achieve what was impossible
that the world would know that the South also exists.”

Mario Benedetti.

Sr. Zully Rojas Quispe, Misionera Dominica del Rosario

Many people are of the opinion that the Pan Amazon Synod was a “Kairos” moment for the Church in the Amazon.  This time of grace, of searching and meeting, outshines the criticisms made about it; criticisms that of course we understand and interpret within the plurality of voices that exist in the universal Church and in humanity.  The Synod that took place in the month of October marks a before and after, and this “after” is where we meet now, a fundamental period in which there is an emerging awareness in other parts of the world of the crisis in the Amazon area that demands urgent action, and we await the post-synodal Exhortation of  Pope Francis so we can continue to find “new ways for the Church and for an integral ecology.”

One of these voices comes from the institutions that represent the Indigenous Peoples of South America, while another voice is that of the different Christian religions, followed by the diverse groupings that show a plurality of faces of women, young people and elders.  The Church, thanks to the Synod, has put the Amazon in her pastoral agenda and will invest time and effort in that because the situation requires that she does.  We wish that the governments of the Amazon basin, as well as other powerful States, would also put it on their agenda, States that in the name of development are asphyxiating us.  Let them hear this: “We are the Amazon, we are the South that exists and cries out”.  A voice that demands public policies for development and growth.  The voice of our brothers and sisters who live there; the voice of the earth that cries out against the deforestation that she suffers because of the activities, in the most part illegal and harmful; the voice of God in the life of our Indigenous Peoples who ask us “Where is your brother?”

The Pope’s visit in January 2018 helped to make visible this reality;  the Synod, in line with the teaching of Francis that responds to the Vatican 11 Council, is producing various initiatives that go beyond merely awakening consciences to a real commitment to the Amazon.  I will share with you some significant aspects that we experienced during the Synod itself.

The participation of Indigenous Leaders who were invited to the Synod. 

We had heard that some indigenous leaders would be invited to attend.  This was in accord with the meeting held by Pope Francis with Indigenous peoples during his visit to Puerto Maldonado in January 2018.  And so it happened.  Seventeen leaders, both women and men, took part and each of their interventions were an expression of liberty, realism and of Mother Earth´s cry for justice. It was also a call for Church accompaniment and action in the peripheries of the cities and in the Native Indigenous and Riverside communities. We are for these indigenous brothers and sisters “still credible and they want us as a Church to be allies in the defence of their territory, culture and their lives”.

It was so good to hear their critical and confrontational voices about some attitudes and situations that as a Church and society we need to change.  The summary of ways to be converted gathered in the final document should help us to respond concretely to these demands.

I would also point out that they asked for a special meeting and dialogue with the Pope and he granted them this request.  During this visit, the native peoples who take part in the activities of the “Amazonic Common Home” participated. Taken altogether they presented the voices of those who live in the Amazon and they hope to change the situations of death into possibilities of life.

The participation of Women

The Pan Amazonic Synod was a breakthrough of the breath of Ruah who desires to convert and renew the Church in the Amazonic region. I would add that the 35 women invited by Francis to take part in the Synod of Bishops as experts, consultors and auditors.  We were 18 religious and 17 lay women. We accompanied each other in solidarity and congratulations after the four minute interventions that each auditor had in the synodal Hall; these spoke of the life and the situations of injustice that kill hope as well as of the necessary conditions for collaborating with other men and women. Some were lodged in the same house and we had the advantage of continuing our rich dialogue there, sharing opinions, dreams and challenges; but most of all building up our hope.

During this post-synodal time, we are participating actively in the repetition of the Synod in different spaces and countries.  We are happy that the post-synodal committee has two Indigenous women in it; one Is a leader from Ecuador and one sister from Brazil.  We wish to continue being bearers of the task that the Pope gave us on the last day; to be creative, to communicate what we have experienced and not to be afraid.  Knowing that we are inhabited by the Spirit is the rock base of our commitment infidelity to the project of Jesus- life in abundance.

The Pact of the Catacombs for the care for our “Common Home”  

This event held in the Domitila Catacombs, built at the end of the fourth century, was another very significant and meaningful moment.  We were present as the People of God, participants in the Synod, ecclesiastic authorities, lay men and women, Amazonic native people, Religious life.  As dawn was breaking on Sunday 20th October, we headed to this place where some 54 years ago at the end of the Vatican Council, a Pact for a ”servant and poor Church” was signed.  Now we gathered to sign and celebrate a “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home: for a church with an Amazon face; poor and serving; prophetic and Samaritan” that had 15 commitments in it.

During the Eucharistic celebration, presided by Dom Claudio Hummes, who wore Dom Helder Camara’s stole, a prophet of the Brazilian Catholic Church.  we carried out some unforgettable gestures.  On a white cloth, we placed our fingerprints, singing to our Latin America that is awakening. At the end of the Eucharist, Dom Claudio handed the stole to Monsignor Erwin Krautler, bishop emeritus of the Prelature of Zubgu and coordinator of REPAM-Brasil, who has worked for 54 years as a missionary in the Brazilian Amazon.

After this gesture we crowded around to sign, feeling that today as in the past the Spirit was present, encouraging our commitment, as happened in the first centuries of the Christian Church;

Speaking to our hearts, –recordari– of the prophetic church in the Amazon and lighting up the horizon we dreamt of and vaguely envisioned.  Just as the forests and the day are lit up when dawn breaks.

By way of closure, I would indicate that the final document has the word CONVERSION repeated 40 times and almost 60 times the word SYNODALITY.  The message is clear that is reaching us.  The five chapters deal with conversion- integral, pastoral, cultural, ecological and synodal.

We must be coherent and faithful to what was shared at the Synod and what is expressed in the final document; the need for faithfulness and creative audacity that Pope Francis asked us to live and that will make possible is we walk together men and women, as corresponds to disciples of the Lord and to do this, we realize that it is necessary to BE FORMED  IN SYNODALITY . And build it every day.   The pillars of our Dominican Spirituality are elements in our favour.

Thank you!

Sr. Zully Rojas Quispe, OP

Misionera Dominica del Rosario.

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