‘What is needed is courageous openness to the novelty of the Spirit’

Vatican City February 12, 2020
Courageous response required of the church for Amazon region, pope says

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the closure of the Synod of Bishops special assembly for the Amazon region, at the Vatican Basilica, October 27, 2019. (Photo by UPDATE IMAGES PRESS/Riccardo De Luca/MaxPPP)

Pope Francis said he dreams of an Amazon region where the rights of the poor and indigenous are respected, local cultures are preserved, nature is protected, and the Catholic Church is present and active with “Amazonian features.”

In his apostolic exhortation “Querida Amazonia” (Beloved Amazonia), Pope Francis made no mention of the idea of ordaining married men to the priesthood so that far-flung Catholic communities would have regular access to the Eucharist.

Instead, he said “every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian people do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.”

“A specific and courageous response is required of the church” to meet the needs of Catholics, he said, without dictating what that response would be.

However, Pope Francis opened the document saying he wanted “to officially present the final document” of October’s Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

The final document asked for criteria to be drawn up “to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order 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.”

Speaking about the final document, Pope Francis wrote that the synod “profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region.”

Having a church with “Amazonian features,” he said, also will require greater efforts to evangelize, official recognition of the role women have and continue to play in the region’s Catholic communities, a respect for popular forms of piety and greater efforts to inculturate the Catholic faith in Amazonian cultures.

“Let us not be quick to describe as superstition or paganism certain religious practices that arise spontaneously from the life of peoples,” he said.

The pope devoted several long passages to the theme of “inculturation,” the process by which the faith becomes “incarnate” in a local culture, taking on local characteristics that are in harmony with the faith and giving the local culture values and traits that come from the universal church.

“There is a risk,” he said, “that evangelizers who come to a particular area may think that they must not only communicate the Gospel but also the culture in which they grew up.”

Instead, he said, “what is needed is courageous openness to the novelty of the Spirit, who is always able to create something new with the inexhaustible riches of Jesus Christ.”

One of the characteristics of many Catholic communities in the Amazon, he wrote, is that, in the absence of priests, they are led and sustained by “strong and generous women, who, undoubtedly called and prompted by the Holy Spirit, baptized, catechized, prayed and acted as missionaries.”

While the idea of ordaining women deacons was mentioned at the synod, it was not included in the bishops’ final document.

In his exhortation, Pope Francis said the idea that women’s status and participation in the church could come only with ordination “would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.”

Instead, he called for including women in roles “that do not entail holy orders,” but that are stably established, publicly recognized.


‘Querida Amazonia’: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation

The pope wishes to affirm a posture, that of listening and discernment

February 12, 2020
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  • 'Querida Amazonia': Commentary on Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation

    Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the closure of the Synod of Bishops assembly for the Amazon region, at the Vatican Basilica, October 27, 2019. (Photo by UPDATE IMAGES PRESS/MAXPPP)

    The following are some excerpts of an article published by La Civilta Cattolica.

    Francis is seeking solutions that consider the rights of the original peoples, and that defend the cultural richness and natural beauty of the earth. And he seeks to support Christian communities with suitable pastoral solutions.

    In this regard, the engine of the exhortation – we immediately anticipate – is in the tenth paragraph of the fourth chapter, entitled “Expanding Horizons Beyond Conflicts.” When there are complex issues, the pope asks us to go beyond contradictions.

    When there are polarities and conflicts, we need to find new solutions, to break the impasse by looking for other better ways, perhaps not imagined before. Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff. It is always good to keep this in mind.


    Let me say straightaway that Querida Amazonia is a unique text. I will try to highlight why.

    This is the first time that a document of such magisterial importance explicitly presents itself as a text that “accompanies” another one, namely, the synod’s Final Document, The Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.

    The pope immediately wishes to affirm a posture, that of listening and discernment. He writes that he listened to the interventions during the synod and read with interest the reports of the discussion groups.

    He states:

    “In this exhortation, I wish to give an echo of what this process of dialogue and discernment has caused within me. I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the great concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process” (No. 2).

    The exhortation therefore does not go beyond the Final Document, nor does it simply intend to give it its seal.

    Francis accepts it entirely and accompanies it, guiding its reception within the synodal journey, which is in progress and certainly cannot be said to be concluded.

    The pope has written this because he wants to give an impetus to the synodal process.

    Indeed, Francis decides this time not to quote the document at all because that would give the impression of a selection of contents. Instead, his aim is to invite a complete reading so that it may enrichchallenge and inspire the Church: these are the very three verbs used by the pontiff.


    Inculturating the Gospel in the Amazon therefore means, for Francis, listening to the ancestral wisdom, giving voice to the elderly, recognizing the values present in the way of life of the original communities, recovering over time the rich narratives of the peoples.

    The narrative combines the witness and power of the symbol.

    The pope recognizes that the region has already received the riches that come from pre-Columbian cultures, such as the sense of gratitude for the fruits of the earth, the sacredness of human life and the value of the family, the sense of solidarity and co-responsibility in common work, faith in a life beyond the earthly dimension.

    But certainly also openness to God’s action, and an “indigenous mysticism that sees the interconnection and interdependence of the whole of creation, the mysticism of gratuitousness that loves life as a gift, the mysticism of a sacred wonder before nature and all its forms of life” (No. 73).

    To read the full article click here.