By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world’s
most remote areas and the
connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis
announced a special
gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.
“Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of
Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of
the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops
for the Pan-Amazonian region,
which will take place in Rome in October 2019,” Pope Francis announced Oct. 15.
at the end of a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said the synod would
seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people
who are “often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful
future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest,” which plays a vital role in the
environmental health of the entire planet.
The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine
countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous
populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.
prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that “all
the people of the earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and,
enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace.”
pope had spoken about a possible synod with a variety of bishops from South
America, who have been making their “ad limina” visits to Rome this
year. The groups included the bishops of Peru; about 60 percent of the country
is in the Amazon.
In an interview published May 16 in L’Osservatore Romano,
the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho,
president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference, said one of the primary
challenges of evangelization in the Amazon is the difficulty in physically
reaching the native populations.
For example, he said, although they are in the same church
province, one bishop is five hours away and another is 17 hours away.
“It’s easier to meet in Rome,” he told
L’Osservatore Romano. “It isn’t an easy area and the pope is very
The church, he said, has been the only voice speaking out in defense of the indigenous
people of the Amazon. In the early 1900s, St. Pius X strongly denounced the mistreatment of
the native population in the rubber plantations of Peru, Archbishop Pineiro
A synod, he said, would expand that message and strengthen
current efforts to evangelize.
“It is difficult to evangelize the native
population,” Archbishop Piniero said. “Recently, the seeds have begun
to be sown. Some of my brother bishops who are in that area have learned to
speak the native language in order to draw closer to the population.”
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