Some takeaways from the Amazon synod

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region drew to a close on October 27. Themed, Amazonia, new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology, the assembly called for a conversion leading caring for the ecology and the socio-economic and religious situations in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, Climate Central, a non-profit environmental protection organisation, released a research report in late October. It found that rising sea levels would affect a number of low-lying coastal cities in the world by 2050 including Hong Kong. The report projected that the northwestern part of the New Territories may be one of the flood threat zones while the airport at Chek Lap Kok and the area of Western Kowloon might also be vulnerable to the risk of flooding. This is cause for much concern.

As stated by Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod, which gathered over 180 attendees, the gathering was a sign that “the entire Church cares for the Amazon Region.”

The Amazon rainforest and river are considered one of the most important ecological systems in the world. Some studies point out that the region is responsible for 20 per cent of the earth’s water and, although it covers just less than five per cent of the earth’s land surface, 30 per cent of the earth’s known forest plants, insects and organisms live there.

In fact, the Church, which values an integral ecological perspective, regards ecology as a sociological concept. An ecological perspective must also integrate the idea of justice into the discourse of environment in order to hear to the cries of the earth and the poor. Thus, the Church not only cares for the ecology but should also focus on ecologically-related social crises, such as the indigenous people, small farmers and the marginalised city-dwellers. 

The Church and the people of goodwill in society jointly seek for the solution to resolve the situation and respond to poverty, enable those excluded to regain their dignity and to care for creation.

In addition to the matter integral ecology, the outside world also paid close attention to the assembly’s discussions on the issues of allowing married men to be ordained to the priesthood and the role of women in the Church. 

In this regard, while upholding holy Tradition, the Church took into account some pastoral considerations. For example, while affirming that the responsibility for the pastoral care of the faith communities would remain with the pastor, suggested that bishops “can entrust, for a specific period of time, in the absence of priests, the exercise of pastoral care of the communities to a person not invested with the priestly character, who is a member of the community.” 

Let us make a preliminary summary of the areas in this synod which need attention and from which we can learn. The first is listening and discerning, which is, right from the start, the core of the synod. With listening and discerning, driven by the Holy Spirit, people respond with faith, love for humanity and humility. The second is caring for the poor. Everyone must engage in an integral conversion in the ecological environment and in socio-economic life. SE

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