Sisters, what do you need?

As the former executive director of a domestic violence prevention agency and shelter, I met hundreds of women who lived in dangerous environments where conforming their voices to the powers was a survival skill. They faced abusive husbands, dictatorial fathers, indifferent judges and policemen who often re-victimized them, family members and friends who didn't believe them, and conspiring local priests or pastors who counseled them to be better wives, better women. For most of their lives they bent themselves into every sort of pretzel formation to protect their children and avoid being beaten. When they did speak up, there was hell to pay. And the bruises on their bodies often were not the worst of the injuries as they began to believe the insults that were hurled their way.

I learned that women who are under threat or who being abused know best how to navigate their way to safety. They understand the subtleties of the dangers they face. They have learned to survive because they became unwilling experts in discerning the sounds and sights of immediate danger; the sound of an angry abuser's footsteps; a dark glance shot across the kitchen table; a breath husky with a perceived affront; a twisted smile; the door on the gun cabinet being opened two rooms away...

In the presence of these incredibly strong women, these survivors, I learned humility. I learned to honor their ability to navigate the dangers they were facing. I learned to listen deeply to their stories of suffering and love as well as their needs and dreams. After years of having their authentic voice slain by cruel partners, the last thing they needed was another person dictating their lives. They needed people who were willing to make space for their agency. I learned to offer maps and support as they traversed the daunting bureaucracies where greater safety and dignity might be pulled from a complex mix of local legal, governmental, and non-profit resources.

I loved these women like sisters. My whole heart was focused on helping them find what they needed to live a safer, more joyous life.

So when, throughout the 3 weeks of the synod, the bishops and Pope Francis seemed to be listening to women religious, indigenous women and the bishops from the Amazon who knew well how these threatened communities were formed and sustained by women, I was hopeful that all the bishops would recognize their contributions, their needs, their requests and honor them fully.

Women religious, indigenous women and men, and the bishops from the Amazon region wanted to see women admitted to the diaconate, recommended further discussion on the diaconate for women, or highlighted the need to recognize women's ministries without specifically naming the diaconate. As a matter of fact, of the nine language groups from the Amazon region, those who knew best how the church is sustained and what dangers they face, four recommended admitting women to the diaconate now, one highlighted the need, and the rest wanted further discussion of the diaconate for women and/or a formal way to recognize their diaconal service.

That means that approximately 200 of the 265 participants specifically requested admission or some further discussion and recognition. We also know that while the English/French group did not speak specifically about married priests or women deacons, they offered tacit support wisely saying, "We cannot decide for the people. We can only accompany them."

Italian group "A" did not surprise with their Eurocentric worldview that suggested that women be afforded the ministries of lector and acolyte, ministries that women are already performing in many regions. And Italian group "B" amazingly did not mention women at all, an omission of the grandest proportion given the role of women in the region. But they did recommend the Amazonian rite which could theoretically provide a platform for a unique form of worship, ministry, and governance within the Amazon region.

So, who had the credibility to know what the Amazon church needed at this synod, and who decided the outcome of the final document? For me that is an important question, because it shows that while the church is moving from its long held Eurocentric vision, but is still moored by it.

Otherwise, like paragraph 111 recommending an opening to married priests, paragraph 103 would have been more courageous and honest.

Instead of suggesting that the synod would share our experiences and reflections with the Commission and await its results (103), they would have more courageously stood by the women serving in the Amazon. And, no matter what it might take to enable the diaconate for women, no matter the red tape, they could have recommended that a study be undertaken to determine the best path for opening the diaconate to women.

At this synod, there was great progress made. In 2015, at the synod on the family, Archbishop Andre Durocher was the only bishop to mention the need to open the discussion on women deacons. In 2016, the international body of women religious superiors asked Pope Francis to consider women deacons which he did by creating a commission of women and men. In 2018, the final document from the synod on the youth did not mention women deacons, but did call the inclusion of women a "matter of justice" for the first time.

Disappointingly, Pope Francis gave the international body of women religious a report (that has not yet been released by the UISG) that seemed to follow the most conservative voices in the commission and, at least temporarily, did not open the diaconate to women.

But in 2019, we took a giant step forward for a majority of synod participants voiced support for women deacons, and a large number wanted admission, not discussion.

We do not want to lose site of that progress. We are at the point of no return when it comes to incorporating women into ecclesial structures.

Still, as a woman who has had the honor of being with women who are under threat, in my work at the domestic violence prevention agency and at the Amazonian synod, I cannot help but wish there would have been more courage from those who fashioned the final document. There was a way to move beyond another pass on the Commission, and the significant number who understood just how crucial women are in building and maintaining the church in the Amazon were ready for action and admission.

The women of the Amazon, both indigenous and religious, face dangers every day. They face death threats and murder, as in the case of Sr. Dorothy Stang and so many other women. They face the rape of their land, the destruction of their clean rivers and life giving forests. They face the lawlessness and crass criminality of corporate interests who care nothing about the people and the land except what they can extract from it.

These women know best how to navigate the dangers they and their people face.

In his final remarks Pope Francis acknowledged the need to incorporate women into the Church in new ways. He looked up from his remarks to read a sign that women in the synod hall were holding.

"Please listen to us. We need to be heard."

Those who decided how to construct the final document should have been more courageous in following the women ministers and bishops of the region, taking on their sense of urgency. They should have ensured the women of the Amazon and the bishops who honor their work had all they needed and requested in order to carry out their work -- the work of the Gospel.

Anything less continues to be a scandal; a scandal that has gone on too long in our church where women carry out he work of deacons and priests and are not being given the same sacramental rites.

That scandal will be overcome, there is no doubt. Women will continue to hold signs and raise their voices. Women and men will continue to break down the walls of patriarchy; walls that impede the work of the Gospel and the fullness of justice for women within the institution.

One of the most important parts of my work as the executive director at the shelter for victims/survivors of domestic violence was to stand at the door, ready to open it when women and their children returned time and time again after going home to somehow try to make love work.

We never gave up on women.

And we won't give up on women in the church.

We will be there working to change the system and the culture until it recognizes the true equality of women and is willing to incorporate their gifts, talents, wisdom and faith into all levels of governance and ministry in the church.

After 30 Years of Steadfast Education and Advocacy, FutureChurch Celebrates a Long Awaited Opening

Thirty years ago, some 33 Catholics from 16 parishes gathered to ratify a call for reform within the Catholic Church. They believed the centrality of the Eucharist outweighed the disciplinary considerations of the state-in-life and gender of ordained ministers.

Led by Fr. Louis Trivison and Sr. Christine Schenk, CSJ, FutureChurch came into being. They called for Church officials to:

  • Incorporate women at all levels of ministry and decision making.
  • Open the priesthood to women and married men, including resigned priests.
  • Engage in extensive consultation on such issues as officially permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist, intercommunion, and the selection of bishops.

While the history of celibacy is complex, it is clear that mandatory celibacy was never part of the message of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter and the apostles were married. Other early disciples were married and these women and men traveled in partnership. Although an early epistle from Paul advises some to refrain from marriage, he is clearly thinking in eschatological terms. Yet even here, he recognizes this is not a requirement from the God.

This year at the Amazonian synod, there was marked support from the 12 small language groups for opening the priesthood to married men.

The English/French group stated in their report that, "The word 'priest' has many meanings. The one who offers sacrifice does not need to be the head of the community. You don’t need to be a parish priest. History and theology have united too many things: teaching, sanctifying, governing… We must accept that different situations require different initiatives."

The final document proposes that the priesthood be opened to married men, an achievement to be celebrated after so many years of education and advocacy by FutureChurch.

Paragraph 111 states:

Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist. sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the sacrament of reconciliation or anoint the sick in the community. We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 1) to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity and we pray that there will be many vocations living the celibate priesthood. We know that this discipline "is not required by the very nature of the priesthood...although it has many reasons of convenience with it" (PO 16). In his encyclical on priestly celibacy, St. Paul VI maintained this law and set out theological, spiritual, and pastoral motivations that sustain it. In 1992, the post-synodal exhortation of John Paul II on priestly formation confirmed this tradition in the Latin Church (PDV 29). Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but expresses and serves it (LG 13; SO 6) which testifies to the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we propose to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain priests suitable and esteemed men of the community, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted and stable family, to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region. In this regard, some were in favour of a more universal approach to the subject.

In recovering the early tradition of both married and celibate priests, the needs presented by the people of the Amazon helped break open the stronghold on celibacy of former popes.

And of course, this "emergency" relief will have implications for the universal church.

Massimo Faggioli observes that other regions facing priest shortages "can request this - in Europe, in North America, in Africa, Asia. So that could be the beginning of a general overhaul of the Catholic Church's dealing with celibacy of the priesthood."

The many advocates for married priests, including Vatican II Catholics like those who formed FutureChurch, helped pave the way for this remarkable proposal which, we expect will receive the confirmation and blessing of Pope Francis in the next few months.

And, in addition to married priests, because women are leading the communities in the Amazon, and account for 80% of ecclesial ministers in the Church in the United States, FutureChurch will not abandon our work to make sure women in the Amazon and in the worldwide Church are afforded the same opportunities as our brothers in receiving the recognition and grace of ordination along with full equality in all levels of governance within the Church.

The Voices of Courage and Hope

Throughout the 3 weeks of the synod, there were scores of women and men who spoke urgently, clearly, and courageously for the needs of the Catholic Church in the Amazon.They helped us understand the reality on the ground. And it is their experiences that will be considered as part of the Commission on Women Deacons that was formed in 2016.

Here are a few of those voices.

Sr. Ines Azucena Zambrano Jara, MMI from Colombia referred to the women as the "Synod mothers." She wanted women to be ordained deacons because it would "confirm our ministries, our baptism, and our work and presence throughout all this time with indigenous people."

Sr. Birgit Weiler said that at the last synod, Pope Francis already made it possible [for women religious to vote], saying that it is not [necessary to have] ordination to priesthood to be able to vote. When you are participating fully in the whole process of sharing faith, of discerning together, then the vote is also an expression; you also want to responsibly participate in the decision that is taken. And, yes, we hope very much that something can happen there.

It is expressed, and clearly expressed. There is no real reason for not [having women religious superiors vote] because when the brethren can vote, women religious are equals. Both have votes and both are not ordained.

Sr. Birgit Weiler, when speaking about women's freedom of expression in the small groups, she said There is a very open atmosphere. With me, there are two other religious sisters. And so, we experience that we are really accepted as part of the group. There is not a clerical attitude. There's a lot of freedom of speech and it is a beautiful experience, really, to discern together. And also, we could speak how we sometimes feel about the Church -- what hurts us, what we desire to change so that we can really be a community of sisters and brothers sharing faith, learning together, and trying to live together out of the Spirit - what the Spirit wants to tell the Church today so that we follow the path of Jesus in today's context -- with today's potentials and today's demands. Yes, it is certainly strong. And I also heard from other women religious who are participating in some other small circles, and they say it is the same -- it is really an open atmosphere. So, more critical questions can be put openly and respectfully on the table.

‍Sr. Birgit Weiler said that in her small group, it was a strong point even said by the bishops that when you want to become a church that expects to be a synodal church, really walking together and discerning together, [it] means we must come to the point to decide together. And that means you have to have more women in positions of leadership. [Already] there's a wide field where you do not need to be ordained, and we hope this will be much more the reality in the future that women -- lay women, religious women -- will be invited to also assume responsible positions. Now, already many of them already do [assume responsible leadership roles] and that is recognized in the working document. Practically [speaking], the major pastoral work and presence is given by women. But is not only the work that we do, but we want also to be included in positions where we take responsible decisions. How to design pastoral work? How to go forward with inter-cultural [work]. Or liturgy, for example. Or the way you walk together with indigenous people to really form and shape Christian communities, rooted in their cultures.

Leah Casimero, an indigenous leader said that ordaining women deacons would be an important step to the region because women are already doing the work and this model would serve the whole community.

Sr. Gloria Liliana Franco Echeverri, O.D.N., president of the Latin American Confederation of Religious (C.I.A.R.), Colombia (in speaking about the possibility of women deacons) explained that "in this synod there are 40 (actually 35) women. And that behind these 40 women there are many others. The Church has a female face - it is a mother and a teacher. But in this time in the Church, [the female face] is also a sister and a disciple. We are not the protagonists, but we follow St. Claire, our mothers and grandmothers, others who played a part in reconstructing the church. The church is doing discernment and we don't know if this [women deacons] will happen. But we continue to make sure that the female face [of the church] is clear knowing God will continue to lead this process and open up new opportunities and paths."

Sr. Teresa Cediel Castillo, M.ML, responding to my question in the press hall on the very first working day of the synod, set the tone by explaining how women lead and minister in Catholic communities in Colombia. Explaining that the founder of her community established a community "right in the middle of the Amazon forest", Sr. Teresa said, "The situation of women is sad. They have to overcome great geographical distances, and they also must take upon themselves the great problems in the territory -- drug trafficking, poverty, and exploitation. They are often forced to leave and go to the big cities. This makes the presence of women in this synod so important because their voices are important. We must speak out for indigenous women on the ecclesial, social, economic, and political dimensions of their lives."

Commenting on her hopes for the synod, Sr. Teresa commented on "the extensive role of women" in the Amazonian church. ‍"The women develop their own projects for education, healthcare, and other issues. They know that they are baptized, and therefore, prophets, priests and queens. Women baptize children. If there is a marriage, women witness the marriage. If someone has need of confession, we listen to the bottom of our hearts. We may not be able to absolve, but we listen 'with humbleness.'"

Anitalia Pijachi, a member of the Ocaina Huitoto indigenous people from Leticia, Colombia called for church leaders to listen to women.

During the first days of the synod, when she heard bishops refer to the "holy mother church," the words reminded Pijachi of the "maloka," the spacious, round-sided communal building where her people gather for special occasions.

The maloka, she said, "is the woman, the womb that brings her children together, the place of abundance."

"Although many synod participants spoke of the important pastoral work done by women, some remained reluctant to give women a larger role," she said.

"That is partly because some bishops do not understand the reality of ministry in the Amazon," she added.

"I believe it is very important that the synod give women a place in decision-making (and) the autonomy to act," she said.

"I reminded the men that they do not have to be afraid of us," Pijachi said. "The only way a man can be born is if he comes from a woman. Before he saw the light of day, he was born through a woman's vagina."

"So why, after I gave him life, I who am his mother, why does he reject me and send me off to a corner?" she asked.

Dr. Maria Marcia de Oliveira of Brazil, whose institution has been studying migration for nearly 30 years said their research can help the Church as it lays out a new direction and new pastoral ministries for addressing the challenges facing the Amazon and the wider church. Stating the women are the most under threat, they are also "at the heart of the church." For her, it is impossible to talk about the church without talking about the presence and role of women at the head of organized groups, communities and pastoral ministries.

"They take on the leadership of the communities," she said.

They head political and social movements to address the most pressing problems their people face.

She believed that this Synod and the Church should recognize their central contributions "giving greater value to the ministerial work that women take on and recognize the services they already give."

"They have a lot to teach us concerning an integral ecology."

In her interview prior to the synod, Dr. Marcia believes that recognizing the role of women in the Church of the Amazon "is to do justice to all those who died in defense of rights and life of the peoples of that region, such as Sister Dorothy Stang, cowardly murdered in Anapu, in Pará, on February 12, 2005, and for Sister Cleusa Coelho, martyr of justice and peace of indigenous peoples, murdered on April 28, 1985 in the Lábrea prelature, in the Amazon.

Bishop Evaristo Pascoal Spengler, O.F.M of Brazil made a clear case based on his experience of women's ministry.

  • We need an official ministry for women in the church. Sixty percent of all ministry in the Amazon is led and coordinated by women. Women have a decisive presence today in the Amazon. In many cases, the people see a priest once or twice a year, but the Pope wants there to be a lived pastoral presence in the communities.
  • Evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures show women on par with men as judges, matriarchs, prophets, etc.
  • There is a huge presence of women throughout the history of the church. One of the most important women was Mary. And we have many women saints in the church...more women saints than men.
  • It is not for lack of holiness that we do not ordain women.
  • In the history of the church there were women deacons and that role should be expanded today.
  • Vatican II opened up the diaconate for men because it was recognized that they were doing diaconal work. The same is true of women. This is a topic that has to be taken up again, this time for women.
  • There is a path open for women to become deacons. Pope Benedict opened it in 2009 when he changed Canon Law to make it clear that the diaconate is a ministry of the word, liturgy, and charity -- a separate ministry from the priesthood.
  • Galatians says there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, female or male, but all are one in Christ Jesus.

Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino of São Félix, Brazil when asked about women deacons in the Amazonian communities where women are already ministering and leading, the bishop noted that many women in his community are already trained in theology, and “they know that if this synod, with the pope, opens up the possibility of the diaconate for women…I will ordain them.”

Bishop Erwin Krautler was, without doubt, a supporter of women deaconsand in previous interviews has stated his support for women priests. He said, "Two thirds of our communities are animated by women. We have to think about this. We have to proclaim the women and their work. We need concrete solutions. So why not women deacons?"

Sr. Gloria Liliana Franco Echeverri, O.D.N., president of the Latin American Confederation of Religious (C.I.A.R.), Colombia (in speaking about the possibility of women deacons) explained that "in this synod there are 40 (actually 35) women. And that behind these 40 women there are many others. The Church has a female face - it is a mother and a teacher. But in this time in the Church, [the female face] is also a sister and a disciple. We are not the protagonists, but we follow St. Claire, our mothers and grandmothers, others who played a part in reconstructing the church. The church is doing discernment and we don't know if this [women deacons] will happen. But we continue to make sure that the female face [of the church] is clear knowing God will continue to lead this process and open up new opportunities and paths."

Bishop Wilmar Santin said that he is training women (9) and men (39) as Ministers of the Word and when the diaconate opens up (assuming he meant for women since it is already available for men), "We shall see, then, when the ordination of deacons is made possible."

Bishop McElroy publicly stated for the first time that he is in favor of women deacons saying, "My view on it is [that] women should be invited into every ministry or activity we have that's not doctrinally precluded."

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, moderator for the English/French language group at the synod stated, "Women should vote at the synod and become cardinals."

The twenty religious who participate in the synod on the Amazon about to conclude in the Vatican, will not be able to vote on Saturday the final document that will be given to the Pope, which was also prepared with their contributions in three weeks of work.

Many Synod Fathers do not understand why and among them is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg. In an interview with LA NACION , this 61-year-old Jesuit who lived in Japan for more than two decades and speaks five languages, not only showed himself in favor of religious women participating in the assembly having the right to vote - as is the case with religious-, but went further: he said that if there were women-deacons (claim that sounded strong in these weeks), there should also be women-cardinals . "I think that when you choose the pope, women should also be involved," he said.

"If women do not feel they are welcome in the Church, in the broad sense of welcome, then they will abandon it," he warned.

Deacon Francisco Andrade de Lima, Executive Secretary of the North Region of the CNBB in Brazil supports women deacons.

"When we listen to the people where we live we realize this church has a female face. Women whose faith is alive, lead the communities. A priest comes maybe once or twice a year. I am married and have 2 daughters and they often help me in ministry...I don’t see any problems with having women carrying this ministry. But we must start with the vocational aspect and the history of the Amazon Church. And, we must start with women."  

Other women and bishops talked about diaconal ministry that included presiding over funerals, preaching, leading Eucharistic services, conducting Bible studies and leading educational efforts.

There is every reason to hope. We are moving toward a more synodal church. But if synods themselves are to have credibility, we need fair and equal representation for women, and of course, the right to vote.

To walk together, the Church today needs a conversion to the synodal experience. It needs to strengthen a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion in order to find areas and ways of joint decision making and response to pastoral challenges. In this way, co-responsibility in the life of the Church will be fostered in spirit of service. We need to go forward to make proposals and take on responsibility to overcome clericalism and arbitrary impositions. Synodality is a constitutive dimension of the Church. We cannot be Church without recognizing a real practice of the 'sensus fidei' of all the People of God (88).

The Sacred Pachamama returns to the Synod Hall

One of the markers of spiritual growth and maturity is to recognize that one tradition cannot capture God and that God is found everywhere if ones eyes and heart are open.

Pope Francis models this kind of spiritual maturity and has a deep and authentic reverence for the spirituality and wisdom traditions of others. He recognizes that the Church can and should learn from these traditions to strengthen our own.

In his final remarks at the synod, Pope Francis took to task the cast of media fundamentalists who deliberately slurred the traditions of the Amazonian tribal peoples and those who stole the Parchamama symbols from the altars at Transpontina.

“I'm thinking about these elites, Catholic or Christian ones. These selective groups sometimes, but especially Catholics who want to go to the little things and forget the big things. I remembered a phrase from Péguy and went to look for it. I will try to translate it properly. I think it can help when describing these groups that want to point out the little thing and forget about the big thing: 'Because they are not brave enough to be with the world, they believe they are with God. Because they are not brave enough to compromise on man's options, on man's life options, they believe they are fighting for God. Because they love no one, they think they love God. We should not be the prisoners of this selective group."

Upon hearing the pope's remarks, the synod hall broke out in a long applause.

Music to my ears.

Returning to the Catacombs Pact; This Time with Synod Mothers

One of the people I interviewed during my time in Rome at the synod commented that it was hard to find a picture that represented the women who joined the gathering of the bishops and people for the renewal of the Catacombs Pact.

Yet, this gathering on October 20, 2019 went far beyond the original Catacomb Pact in 1965 in terms of representation. Not only did more than 40 bishops sign the pact, women religious and indigenous women and men signed it as well. The women at the gathering referred to themselves as Synod Mothers, a beautiful way to claim their space in the Church.

Thanks to Luis Gutierrez, here is the text from the Catacombs Pact:

Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home

For a Church with an Amazonian face, poor and servant, prophetic and Samaritan

We, the participants of the Pan-Amazon Synod, share the joy of living in the midst of numerous indigenous peoples, “quilombolas,” inhabitants of riverbanks, migrants and communities in the peripheries of the cities of this immense territory of the planet. We have experienced with them the strength of the Gospel that acts in the poor The encounter with these peoples challenges us and invites us to a simpler life of sharing and gratuitousness. Marked by listening to their cries and tears, we heartily welcome the words of Pope Francis:

“So many of our brothers and sisters in Amazonia are bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the Gospel, the Church’s caress of love. For them, with them, let us journey together.

We recall with gratitude those bishops who, in the Catacombs of Santa Domitilla at the end of Vatican Council II, signed The Catacombs’ Pact of the Poor and Servant Church. We remember with veneration all the martyrs that were members of the base ecclesial communities, of pastoral and popular movements; the indigenous leaders, missionaries, lay people, priests and bishops, who shed their blood for this option for the poor, for defending life and fighting for the protection of our Common Home. We join in gratitude for their heroism with our decision to continue their struggle with tenacity and courage. It is a feeling of urgency that prevails in the face of aggressions that today devastates the Amazon territory, threatened by the violence of a predatory and consumerist economic system.

Before the Holy Trinity of our particular Churches the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean, and those who stand in solidarity with us in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe and on the continent of North America, and at the feet of the apostles Peter and Paul and the multitude of martyrs of Rome, Latin America and, especially, of our Amazon, and in deep communion with the successor of Peter, we invoke the Holy Spirit and we commit ourselves, personally and communally, to the following:

1. To assume, in the face of extreme global warming and the depletion of natural resources, the commitment, in our territories and with our attitudes, to defend the Amazon jungle. From it come the gifts of water for much of the South American territory, the contribution to the carbon cycle, and the regulation of the global climate, an incalculable biodiversity and a rich socio-diversity for humanity and the entire earth.

2. To recognize that we are not the owners of Mother Earth, but rather the sons and daughters, formed from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2: 7-8), guests and pilgrims (1 Pet. 1: 17b and 1 Pet. 2:11), called to be its jealous caregivers and caretakers (Gen. 1: 26). For this we commit ourselves to an integral ecology in which all is interconnected, the human race and all creation, because all beings are sons and daughters of the earth and over them the Spirit of God moves. (Gen. 1:2).

3. To welcome and renew every day the covenant of God with everything created: “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, arid with every living creature that is with you, the birds, domestic and wild animals of the earth, as many as came out of the ark (Gen. 9:9-10 and Gen. 9.12-17).

4. To renew in our churches the preferential option for the poor, especially for native peoples, and, together with them to guarantee their right to be protagonists in society and in the Church. To help them preserve their lands, cultures, languages, stories, identities and spiritualities. To grow in the awareness that they must be respected, locally and globally and, consequently, to encourage, by all means within our reach, that they be welcomed on an equal footing in the world concert of peoples and cultures.

5. To abandon, consequently, in our parishes, dioceses and groups all types of colonist mentality and posture welcoming and valuing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity m a respectful dialogue with all spiritual traditions.

6. To denounce all forms of violence and aggression toward the autonomy and rights of native peoples, their identity, their territories, and their ways of life.

7. To announce the liberating novelty of the Gospel of Jesus in welcoming the other and the one who is different, as happened with Peter in the house of Cornelius: “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man profane or unclean.” (Acts 10:28).

8. To walk ecumenically with other Christian communities in the inculturation and liberating proclamation of the Gospel with other religions and people of good will, in solidarity with original peoples, with the poor and the small, in defense of their rights and the preservation of our Common Home.

9. To establish in our particular Churches a synodal lifestyle where representatives of original peoples, missionaries, lay people, because of their baptism and in communion with their pastors, have voice and vote in the diocesan assemblies, in pastoral and parish councils and, ultimately, everything that concerns the governance of the communities.

10. To engage in the urgent recognition of the ecclesial ministries that already exist in the communities, exercised by pastoral agents, indigenous catechists, ministers of the Word, valuing in particular their care in the presence of the most vulnerable and excluded.

11. To make effective in the communities entrusted to us, going from pastoral visits to pastoral presence, ensuring that the right to the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist are effective in all communities.

12. To recognize the services and real diakonia of a great number of women who today direct communities in the Amazon and seek to consolidate them with an adequate ministry of women leaders of the community.

13. To seek new paths of pastoral action in the cities where we operate, with the prominence of the laity, with attention to the peripheries and migrants, workers and the unemployed, students, educators, researchers and the world of culture and communication.

14. To assume before the avalanche of consumerism a happily sober lifestyle, simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing; to reduce the production of garbage and the use of plastics, favoring the production and commercialization of agro-ecological products, and using public transport whenever possible.

15. To place ourselves on the side of those who are persecuted for their prophetic service of denouncing and repaying injustices, of defending the earth and the rights of the poor, of welcoming and supporting migrants and refugees. Cultivate true friendships with the poor, visit the simplest people and the sick, exercise the ministry of listening, comfort and support that bring encouragement and renew hope.

Aware of our fragility, of our poverty and smallness in the face of such great and serious challenges, we commit ourselves to the prayer of the Church. That, above all, our ecclesial communities help us with their intercession, their affection in the Lord and, when necessary, with the charity of fraternal correction. We welcome with an open heart the invitation of Cardinal Hummes to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit during these days of the Synod and upon the return to our churches: "Allow yourselves to be enveloped by the cloak of the Mother of God, Queen of Amazonia. We must not allow ourselves to be overcome by self-referentiality, but by mercy when faced with the pain expressed by the poor and the earth. We will need to pray a great deal, to meditate and discern a real practice of ecclesial communion and a synodal spirit. This Synod is like a table that God has prepared for His poor and He is asking us to serve at that table.” We celebrate this Eucharist of the Covenant as “an act of cosmic love. ” “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.” The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world that came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected toward divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself.” Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Catacombs of Santa Domitilla, Rome, October 20, 2019


A Prayer

Loving God, the Amazon is on fire!

We come before you with a heavy and contrite heart.

We know Your heart must be deeply grieved

as You hear the cries of the innocent trees, creatures,

rivers and indigenous communities as their home burns.

We pray that in Your mercy, You will forgive us

For our way of life, for we have created the markets

For beef, timber and minerals taken from the Amazon.

We pray that You will forgive those who have set the fires

in the Amazon, those who have cut down the ancient trees,

those who plunder its precious resources,

to fulfill human desire for things.

Oh God, Your mercy is infinite

And only Your power can save us from choosing destruction,

Grant us Your grace to turn to better and kinder ways of living.

Rain down your love to heal the scorched earth and its inhabitants.

May Your love, justice and peace reign for all creation always.

In the name of Your son, Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.

(Clare Westwood, adapted from the GCCM prayer)