Editorial: A look inside ‘Querida Amazonia’

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AMAZON DOCUMENT NEWS CONFERENCE
Copies of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Querida Amazonia" (Beloved Amazonia), are pictured at a news conference for the release of the exhortation at the Vatican Feb. 12, 2020. The document contains the pope's conclusions from the 2019 Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In the days since the publication of Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation on the Amazon, Querida Amazonia, we have heard much about what the document does not contain.

We know that after months of speculation — not all of which was handled charitably — the controversial topic of priestly celibacy does not appear within its pages. The pope doesn’t advocate for it; he doesn’t speak out against it.

Numerous analyses have covered the gamut of reaction, from disappointment to relief. We have our own analysis on Page 6 of this issue. So, yes, we know what the exhortation does not say.

But do we know what it does say? Have we set aside Twitter headlines and the media spin room in favor of actually taking the time to read the pope’s own words on the “beloved Amazon”? For those who have not, we have compiled four of Pope Francis’ most noteworthy observations from each main section of the exhortation for reflection and review.

In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis continues to advocate for social, not just environmental, change, writing: “My predecessor Benedict XVI condemned ‘the devastation of the environment and the Amazon basin, and the threats against the human dignity of the peoples living in that region.’ I would add that many of these tragic situations were related to a false ‘mystique of the Amazon’. It is well known that, ever since the final decades of the last century, the Amazon region has been presented as an enormous empty space to be filled, a source of raw resources to be developed, a wild expanse to be domesticated. None of this recognizes the rights of the original peoples; it simply ignores them as if they did not exist, or acts as if the lands on which they live do not belong to them. Even in the education of children and young people, the indigenous were viewed as intruders or usurpers. Their lives, their concerns, their ways of struggling to survive were of no interest. They were considered more an obstacle needing to be eliminated than as human beings with the same dignity as others and possessed of their own acquired rights” (No. 12).

Pope Francis stresses that there is much to be learned from intercultural interactions, and that different cultures have much to learn from one another. “Like all cultural realities, the cultures of the interior Amazon region have their limits. Western urban cultures have them as well. Factors like consumerism, individualism, discrimination, inequality, and any number of others represent the weaker side of supposedly more developed cultures. The ethnic groups that, in interaction with nature, developed a cultural treasure marked by a strong sense of community, readily notice our darker aspects, which we do not recognize in the midst of our alleged progress. Consequently, it will prove beneficial to listen to their experience of life” (No. 36).

As in Laudato Si, Pope Francis stresses a common ecology — one that links humanity with nature. “In a cultural reality like the Amazon region, where there is such a close relationship between human beings and nature, daily existence is always cosmic. Setting others free from their forms of bondage surely involves caring for the environment and defending it, but, even more, helping the human heart to be open with trust to the God who not only has created all that exists, but has also given us himself in Jesus Christ. The Lord, who is the first to care for us, teaches us to care for our brothers and sisters and the environment which he daily gives us” (No. 41).

Finally, evangelization must not be overlooked, Pope Francis reminds us. “Recognizing the many problems and needs that cry out from the heart of the Amazon region, we can respond beginning with organizations, technical resources, opportunities for discussion and political programs: all these can be part of the solution. Yet as Christians, we cannot set aside the call to faith that we have received from the Gospel. In our desire to struggle side by side with everyone, we are not ashamed of Jesus Christ. Those who have encountered him, those who live as his friends and identify with his message, must inevitably speak of him and bring to others his offer of new life: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!’ (1 Cor 9:16)” (No. 62).

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.