As Amazon Synod begins, Pope looks to proceed with a ‘pastoral heart’

Pope Francis opened the first plenary session of the synod for the Amazon region this morning by praying with the synod participants at the tomb of St Peter in the basilica dedicated to his name and then gave an incisive speech to offer some direction to guide them over the next three weeks.

Oct 13, 2019

By Gerard O’Connell
Pope Francis opened the first plenary session of the synod for the Amazon region this morning by praying with the synod participants at the tomb of St Peter in the basilica dedicated to his name and then gave an incisive speech to offer some direction to guide them over the next three weeks.

The Pope told the 185 synod fathers (that is men with a right to vote) and the other participants that “the pastoral dimension is the essential one, that comprises all.” He explained, “We approach the reality of Amazonia with a Christian heart, we see it with the eyes of a disciple to understand it and interpret it with the eyes of a disciple [of Jesus] because there are no neutral, aseptic hermeneutics [modes of interpretation]; they are always conditioned by a prior option.” He emphasised that the synod participants’ “prior option” is “that of disciples,” appearing to rebut criticisms of the synod made by some prelates and others.

He said the synod’s approach is the missionary option “because the love which the Holy Spirit puts in us moves us to the proclamation of Jesus Christ” but in a way that “should not be confused with proselytism.”

The synod’s way is to “bring us close to consider the Amazon reality with this pastoral heart, with the eyes of disciples and missionaries.” He told them that in the synod they are to move “close to the Amazonian peoples on the tip of our toes, respecting their history, their cultures, their style of good living in the etymological sense of the word, not in the social sense which oftentimes damages them.”
He reminded them that all of these Amazonian peoples “have their own entity,” “their own wisdom, consciousness of self” and “a way of seeing reality, a history, a hermeneutic” that makes them “tend to be protagonists of their own history with...these qualities.”

He said the synod must approach these peoples in a way that is “far from the ideological colonisations that are common today — which destroy or reduce the particular characteristics of the peoples.”

He said the synod must “come close to them without the entrepreneurial haste” that comes with “prefabricated programs for ‘disciplining’ the Amazonian peoples, disciplining their history, their culture...to domesticate the original peoples.” Pope Francis said that when the church forgets this, it does not enculturate the Gospel and shows contempt for the people, and this results in “the failures which today we lament.” He urged participants to think of the different approach adopted by such missionaries as Jesuits Roberto de Nobili in India and Matteo Ricci in China and many others. --America Magazine

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