A Church with an indigenous face

Rome (Italy). On 6 October 2019, the Eucharistic Celebration presided by the Holy Father in the Basilica of St. Peter, began the opening of the Panamazon Synod, on the theme "Amazon: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology".

184 participating Synod Fathers. 113 come from the Pan-Amazon ecclesiastical districts, which occupy a territory of nine nations (French Guyana, the Cooperatives Republic of Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru). Among others, 17 representatives of indigenous peoples participate, and 55 auditors.

For the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, the participating auditors are; Sr. Maria Carmelita de Lima Conceição, Provincial of Laura Vicuña Province of Manaus (BMA) and Sr. Mariluce dos Santos Mesquita, FMA belonging to the Barassana ethnicity (Brazil) of St. Teresinha Province (BMT).

The main objective is to "find new ways to evangelize that portion of God's people, especially indigenous people, often forgotten and without the prospect of a peaceful future, also due to the crisis of the Amazon forest, lung of fundamental importance for our planet.

The Synod is therefore an extremely important event for the Churches of Amazonia, called to respond to environmental, economic and social challenges by incarnating them more in their context, but also for the Universal Church, because the problems it faces concern all peoples and territories.

The Amazon covers 7.8 million square kilometers in South America. Its surface occupies part of as many as nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana. Of this immense expanse the forests cover about 5.3 million square kilometers, equal to over a third of those present on earth. Green lung par excellence of the planet, a reservoir of oxygen that makes all of humanity breathe, the Amazon is also one of the largest reserves of biodiversity and alone contains 20% of the fresh non-frozen water of the earth.

In the opening Mass, Pope Francis said: "In no way can the Church be limited to a pastoral care of ‘maintenance’, for those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary zeal is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community. Because the Church is always journeying, always on the move, it must never stand still ”. He then recalled that Jesus did not come to bring the evening breeze, but fire on the earth. The fire does not feed itself, it dies if it is not kept alive, it goes out if ashes cover it. If everything remains as it is, if it is the way it has always been done, the gift vanishes, suffocated by the ashes of fears and by the concern to defend the status quo. God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of strength, charity, and prudence. Prudence is not indecision; it is the virtue of the Pastor, who, to serve with wisdom, knows how to discern the newness of the Spirit ". In the evangelical perspective, he urged the Synod Fathers to be faithful to the newness of the Spirit, "to inspire our Synod to renew the paths for the Church in the Amazon, so that the fire of the mission may not be extinguished".

There are over 130 events and initiatives to explore the issues discussed by the Assembly and to raise awareness of the reality of indigenous peoples. "Amazon: common home" (www.amazonia-casa-comun.org) is among these, a physical space of encounter and spirituality for those who want to know faces, stories, and documents of this part of the planet, praying, listening, and journeying to accompany the work of the Synod Fathers.

The Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Yvonne Reungoat, in her Circular Letter No. 990 writes to the Educating Communities: “The celebration of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region is a providential event that reminds the whole Church of her profound identity, her missionary vocation: "Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15).

[...] I think, dear sisters, that it is all a question of love and those who love know how to understand, adapt, know how to walk quickly to be a neighbor. This principle touches all of us closely wherever we are living our ‘missionary spirit’.

What makes us missionary is the mandate that is addressed to us as a gesture of trust first of all by God, the Church, and the Institute. It is the missionary mandate that marked GC XXIII and that Pope Francis made resound in the heart of the capitulars present at the audience: "Missionaries of joy and hope", that is educators, missionary disciples who renew "the passion and commitment to the evangelizing educational mission, in any situation, in any work, even innovative, which express the Salesian charism " (Acts GC XXIII, n. 50).

The Synod is an opportunity to revive the gift received, to resume the ‘missionary’ path with courageous, humble, sometimes tiring steps, sure of the presence of Mary who always accompanies us to be "missionaries of hope and joy". "Keeping the fire of the da mihi animas cetera tolle lit leads you to risk your life, to be bold, not to be afraid of changes, to be open to the new challenges of contemporaneity": it is the urge to take care of our brothers and sisters throughout the World, and to guard together our "Common Home".

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