Pope Francis at the Amazon Synod closing Mass

Ecological “sin”, married priests, women deacons… The Amazon Synod final document in seven key ideas

The Amazon Synod in the Vatican has come to its conclusion, with participants calling on Pope Francis to ordain married men to the priesthood and to study further the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate.

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Pope Francis wrapped up the Synod on Saturday evening, calling on Catholics to pay attention to the forum’s “diagnoses” of cultural, social, pastoral and ecological issues in the Pan-Amazonian region reflected in the Synod final document, and not to get caught up in the “little things” of intra-ecclesial issues.

In the final Synod Mass Sunday the Pope warned that “the root of every spiritual error… is believing ourselves to be righteous”.

“To consider ourselves righteous is to leave God, the only righteous one, out in the cold”, Francis cautioned.

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All the paragraphs of the final Synod document passed at the vote Saturday with the required two-thirds majority.

That document is now with Pope Francis, who will make the use of it that he sees fit in an Apostolic Exhortation on the Synod due out by the end of the year.

Here are eight of the most striking paragraphs from the final document (in an unofficial translation), selected by the Novena team on a quick first reading.

Paragraph 46. The Church, firm “ally” of the Amazonian peoples

The Church is committed to being an ally of the Amazonian peoples so as to denounce the attacks on the life of the indigenous communities, the projects that affect the environment, the lack of demarcation of their territories, as well as the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development.

The presence of the Church among indigenous and traditional communities needs this awareness that the defense of the land has no other purpose than the defense of life.

70. The need for a “radical” environmental transition

For Christians, interest in and concern for the promotion and respect of human rights, both individual and collective, is not optional. The human being is created in the image and likeness of the Creator God, and his/her dignity is inviolable.

That is why the defense and promotion of human rights is not merely a political duty or a social task, but also and above all a requirement of faith.

We may not be able to immediately modify the prevailing destructive and extractive development model, but we do have the need to know and to make clear: Where do we stand? Whose side are we on? What position do we take? How do we transmit the political and ethical dimension of our word of faith and life?

For this reason: a) we denounce the violation of human rights and the destruction caused by extractivism; b) starting with the ecclesial institutions themselves and also in alliance with other Churches, we take on and support the divestment campaigns against extractivist companies related to the socio-ecological damage of the Amazon; c) we call for a radical energy transition and the search for alternatives. […]

82. A new “ecological sin”

We propose to define ecological sin as an action or omission against God, against others [and against] the community and the environment.

It is a sin against future generations and manifests itself in acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment, transgressions against the principles of interdependence and the breaking of solidarity networks among creatures (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340-344) and against the virtue of justice.

We also propose to create special ministries for the care of the “Common Home” and the promotion of integral ecology at the parish level and in each ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which have as responsibilities, among others, the care of the territory and the waters, as well as the promotion of the encyclical Laudato si’. […]

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94-96. More spaces for the participation of the laity

94. […] We recognize the need to strengthen and expand spaces for the participation of the laity, whether in consultation or in decision-making, in the life and mission of the Church. […]

95. Although the mission in the world is the task of every baptized person, the Second Vatican Council highlighted the mission of the laity…

It is urgent for the Amazon Church that ministries for men and women be promoted and conferred in an equitable manner.

The fabric of the local church, also in the Amazon, is guaranteed by the small missionary ecclesial communities that cultivate the faith, listen to the Word and celebrate together near the life of the people.

It is the Church of baptized men and women that we must consolidate by promoting ministeriality and, above all, the awareness of baptismal dignity.

96. In addition, the Bishop may entrust, for a specific period of time, in the absence of priests in the communities, the exercise of the pastoral care of the same to a person not invested of the priestly character, who is a member of the community.

Personalisms should be avoided and therefore it will be a rotating office.

The Bishop may constitute this ministry on behalf of the Christian community with an official mandate through a ritual act so that the person responsible for the community is also recognized at the civil and local levels.

The priest, with the power and faculty of the pastor, will always be responsible for the community.

102-103. The “ministeriality” of women

102. Given the reality suffered by women victims of physical, moral and religious violence, including feminicide, the Church positions itself in defense of their rights and recognizes them as protagonists and guardians of Creation and the “Common Home”.

We recognize the ministeriality that Jesus reserved for women.

It is necessary to promote the formation of women in studies of biblical theology, systematic theology, canon law, valuing their presence in organizations and leadership within and outside the ecclesial environment.

We want to strengthen family ties, especially for migrant women. We secure their place in the leadership and training spaces.

We ask that for the revision of the Motu Propio of St. Paul VI, Ministeria quaedam, so that properly trained and prepared women can also receive the ministries of Lector and Acolyte, among other ministries to be developed.

In the new evangelical and pastoral contexts in the Amazon, where most Catholic communities are led by women, we ask that the instituted ministry of “woman leader of the community” be created and recognized, within the service of the changing demands of evangelization and attention to communities.

103. In the many consultations carried out in the Amazon, the fundamental role of religious and lay women in the Church of the Amazon and its communities was recognized and emphasized, given the multiple services they provide.

In a large number of these consultations, the permanent diaconate for women was requested. For this reason the theme was important during the Synod.

Already in 2016, Pope Francis had created a “Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women” which, as a Commission, arrived at a partial result based on what the reality of the diaconate of women was like in the early centuries of the Church and its implications for today.

We would therefore like to share our experiences and reflections with the Commission and await its results.

111. The possibility of married priests

Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist. Sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the sacrament of reconciliation or anoint the sick in the community.

We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 1), to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity and we pray that there will be many vocations living the celibate priesthood.

We know that this discipline “is not required by the very nature of the priesthood… although it has many reasons of convenience with it” (PO 16). In his encyclical on priestly celibacy, St. Paul VI maintained this law and set out theological, spiritual, and pastoral motivations that sustain it. In 1992, the post-synodal exhortation of John Paul II on priestly formation confirmed this tradition in the Latin Church (PDV 29).

Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but expresses and serves it (LG 13; SO 6) which testifies to the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we proposed to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain priests suitable and esteemed men of the community, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate, who receive an adequate formation for the priesthood and who may have a legitimately constituted and stable family, 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.

In this regard, some were in favor of a more universal approach to the subject.

119. An “Amazonian rite”

The new organism of the Church in the Amazon must constitute a competent commission to study and dialogue, according to the use and customs of the ancestral peoples, the elaboration of an Amazonian rite that expresses the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Amazon, with special reference to what Lumen Gentium affirms for the Oriental Churches (cf. LG 23).

This would add to the rites already present in the Church, enriching the work of evangelization, the capacity to express the faith in a proper culture, and the sense of decentralization and collegiality that the catholicity of the Church can express.

It could also study and propose how to enrich ecclesial rites with the way in which these peoples care for their territory and relate to its waters. 

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