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Noi Siamo Chiesa

Sezione italiana del movimento internazionale “We Are Church” per la riforma della Chiesa cattolica

The synodality from below comes from the Amazon. Reflections on Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod

The synodality from below comes from the Amazon.  Now the viri probati will have to celebrate the Eucharist . The Synod is in October 2019.

The preparatory document for the Synod on the Amazon (6-27 October), the so-called Instrumentum Laboris , is , as usual , too long but  excellent both in socio-economic environmental analysis and  in pastoral proposals .  We think that this unusual richness is a consequence of the vast basic consultation that preceded it.  We have news that the listening process involved around one hundred thousand people, including 170 original ethnic groups (almost half of those surveyed) through assemblies in 103 local churches and many thematic forums.  The People of God spoke, the Synod should go this way. We can say that in large part the “work” should have already been done. The main points follow one another and are repeated in the document and open questions. The document is worth a full reading.

The bien vivir The text begins by describing the Amazon where the “understanding of life is characterized by the connection and the harmony of the relationship between the water, land and nature, community life and culture, God and the various spiritual forces.  For them, “bien vivir ” means understanding the centrality of the relational-transcendent character of human beings and of creation, and needs “doing well”. ” The material and spiritual dimensions cannot be separated. These particular cosmic visions, these sensibilities and communal cultures are far from the common sense we have in our West.

The “Scream”

The text does not dwell much on past abuses, on slavery and colonization (which it denounces) and enters into the merits. The “Scream” against the violence that the Amazonian populations are now suffering covers the whole text.  The complaint is explicit, direct, without gentle words. The main culprits are the multinationals that exploit natural resources.  These are the words: “The impacts caused by the multiple destruction of the Panamazonic basin generate an imbalance of the local and global territory, in the seasons and in the climate … it is urgent to face these threats, aggressions and indifferences. The care of life opposes the gap culture of lies, exploitation and of oppression. At te same time, it opposes an insatiable vision of unlimited growth, the idolatry of money, for a detached world (from its roots, from its environment), to a culture of death.”The “Scream” then “lists the disasters in progress, point by point, from the “extractive destruction” of resources (mineral and natural) to indirect consequent problems (emigration, urbanization,  the failure created for the family and communities) and the problems posed to health and education.  Finally, perhaps the most serious, the destruction of nature that has planetary consequences.

The Kairòs

That said, the text gives hope for the future and says: “The Amazon is experiencing a moment of grace, a kairòs. The Synod of the Amazon is a sign of the times when the Holy Spirit opens new paths that we discern through mutual dialogue between all the people of God. The dialogue started some time ago with the poorest, from bottom to high. Church must be of the poor and care for creation and have .”An Amazonian Indian theology (already existing), which will allow a better and greater understanding of indigenous spirituality to avoid committing the historical errors that have affected many original cultures … … we must take into consideration the myths, traditions, symbols, the original knowledge, rituals and celebrations that include transcendent, community and ecological dimensions.”  “The liturgy must be inculturated and use the symbols, the music, the languages, the dances proper to the different peoples. This means offering “a Church with an Amazonian face that, in its many shades, tries to be a Church” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 20-23), “which leaves behind a colonial tradition, monocultural, clerical and discerns and assumes without fear the diverse cultural expressions of the peoples.” The document then describes with fascinating words the already existing faith: “It is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught to these peoples over the centuries: the faith in God the Father-Mother Creator, the sense of communion and harmony with the earth, the sense of solidarity with one’s companions, the project of the ” bien vivir ” ,the wisdom of ancient civilizations that older people possess and that has effects on health, living together, on education and the cultivation of the earth, the living relationship with nature and Mother Earth – Pacha Mama ,the ability of resistance and resilience of women in particular, rites and religious expressions, relations with the ancestors, the contemplatives attitude and sense of gratuitousness, of celebration and festivity and the sacred sense of territory. ”

The ministries

In the final part, the document addresses the topic of ministries in the Church without reticence .  It is that for which one looks at this synod from the whole Catholic universe .  First, it states a viewpoint of great interest in effectively with these words: “Indigenous peoples possess a rich tradition of social organization where authorities is rolling and with a deep sense of service. From this experience of organization it would be appropriate to reconsider the idea that the exercise of jurisdiction (power steering) should be connected in all areas (sacramental, judicial, administrative) and permanently to Sacrament of Order.” In essence, the priest is asked to be an equal member in a community management team.  This is in direct contradiction to the clericalism now in force which grants every power of every kind to the pastor and the bishop. . The second point is on the merits of the ministries starting from the well-known general situation, not only the Amazon, of the lack of priests for the celebration of the Eucharist . It says: “Instead of leaving the community without the Eucharist it is necessary change in the selection and preparation of Ministers criteria allowed to celebrate it.” This statement is all-round, much important but undetermined.  Does it mean that women could be included in this assumption? We know that, in the consultation, the proposals for women’s ministries have been raised repeatedly. The most anticipated point though is the third one on the so-called ” viri probati” of which the text speaks in this way: “for the most remote areas of the region, study the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted by their community, although they may already have an established and stable family , in order to ensure the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life.”  Clear words that the Synod will have difficulty not to accept and Pope Francis not to ratify. It would really give a message of outgoing Church and would start concretely (with delay)  a new perspective in dealing with the issue of ministries for all.


The weakest part of the document seems to us the one that talks about women. Noble things are repeated but listened too many times: the female presence must be valued, women must be involved in decision-making, we must ensure their leadership in the field of education (catechesis, liturgy …) etc … They are generic statements if we take into account the situation as described in the same document where it is said that, on average, 80% of church activities are managed by women (in the Amazon but also elsewhere).  We waited for the question of the ordained female diaconate to be openly raised, which Pope Francis left unfinished  but for which the Catholic base cannot be silent. Saying that you need to Identify the type of official ministry that can be given to women, taking into account the central role they play today in the Amazon Church ” is not enough.

Eight points

The document, in the end, returns to the social and political situation with strong words: “Being a Church in the Amazon in a realistic way means prophetically posing the problem of power, because in this region people do not have the opportunity to assert their rights against the large economic enterprises and political institutions,” And if ‘necessary’ refuse alliances  with the dominant culture and political and economic power to promote the cultures and rights of indigenous people, the poor and the land.” Also:” In the voice of the poor is the Spirit;  this is why the Church must listen to them, they are a theological place”. The Instrumentum Laboris  concludes with eight important indications of commitment that are addressed to the Amazon Church but which are also addressed to the universal Church, which must be involved in Amazonian matters.  They are as follows: questioning the extractive model, allying with grassroots movements, protecting human rights and defending minorities,  listen to the cry of “Mother Earth – Pacha Mama ”, promoting the  dignity and equality  of women in public, in private and in church, to promote a new environmental awareness, implement a preferential option for the poor, create networks, at every level, because the Church presents complaints of violation of human rights.

The Vatican power does not stop everything

Now it is up to the Synod  discuss and propose.  There are many expectations not only on ministries.  The denunciation of the attack on nature and the violence against the populations must also be at the center of this Kairos of the Church.  The true synodality from the bottom repeatedly evoked by Pope Francis has started .  We hope the Vatican curia will not be able to block it.

Rome, 19 June 2019                                       Noi Siamo Chiesa




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