An Austrian-Brazilian bishop who has served for over five decades in the Amazon has suggested that the world’s industrialised nations are complicit in the destruction of the region.

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Erwin Kräutler, who arrived in the Amazon in 1965 and led Brazil’s largest diocese by area – Xingú – from 1981 to 2015, told KNA that advanced countries are responsible for the exploitation of the rainforest.

That exploitation has tragically escalated with the more 73,000 fires in the Amazon that have burnt more than 640 million acres of land since January.


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“The G7 nations and other states have to ask themselves how much they are complicit in the destruction”, Kräutler said.

“Where does all of the illegally-logged wood of the Amazon go, and all the dairy and meat products for which the tropical rainforest is burned down?”, the bishop lamented rhetorically.

Kräutler added that “nobody” is against these exports, but he called for nations on the receiving end to consider the costs to the environment and the threat to indigenous people that these exports entail.

None of the countries to which Brazil exports the fruits of mining would accept the great risk to the environment and population that that extractivism involves, the bishop added.

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For the record

In Kraütler’s opinion, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is also to blame for the Amazon’s destruction, along with industrialised nations.

Bolsonaro has “no idea” about the Amazon, the bishop complained. The president already outed himself on the campaign trail “as an enemy of the indigenous peoples”.

Bolsonaro only wants to “develop” the region for national and international business interests, Kräutler continued, which is exactly the opposite of the Church’s commitment to the defence and preservation of the Amazon.

The bishops of the Amazon know the area “decidedly better than politicians”, Kräutler added pointedly.


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What’s next

On the topic of next month’s Pan-Amazon Synod of bishops in the Vatican, Kräutler said the meet would focus on developing an “holistic ecology” for the region.

The bishop added that another question that will be discussed is the possibility of the Church ordaining married men to the priesthood, but he said that the move wasn’t about the abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy.

“It’s not about celibacy, yes or no, it’s about the Eucharist!”, Kräutler insisted.

90% of remote communities have access to the Mass only a handful of times every year, the bishop deplored.

In that context it is important to remember that “access to the priesthood in the Amazon should not be limited to celibate men”, Kräutler explained.

Kräutler said a possible first step could be the ordination of women to the diaconate.

Not only as a way of recognising that a majority of Catholic communities in the Amazon have women as their leaders, but also as a way of overcoming the “discrimination” against women in the wider Church, he said.  

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.