Home » Brazil » Synod on the Amazon: ‘Advancing to deeper waters’

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest and river near Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT via Flickr

The Synod on the Amazon started on Oct. 6 and continues until Oct. 27 in Rome. The synod was called to address the negative effects of climate change and multinational companies in the Amazon region. The participants consist of 184 voting members and invited speakers, leaders and activists who provide personal and informative accounts.

From left: Dom Pedro Brito Guimarães, archbishop of Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil; Cidinha Medina; Cacique Roseni Xerente; and Elza Xerente, an indigenous woman who went to the Synod. Photo by Miriam Bernadete Souza.

The Portuguese hymn that was sung by the indigenous people as they walked with Pope Francis in one of the opening days of the Synod was Avançar para águas mais profundas, “Advancing to Deeper Waters.” Hopefully this is what will be accomplished within the Synod to advance into the deep, profound waters of indigenous culture and natural beauty of the Amazon; moreover, to identify the church’s role as religious and lay members in preventing its destruction.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, fears the synod and the empowerment of the Amazonian indigenous. His national security adviser, Gen. Augusto Heleno, has said of the synod, “It’s worrying, and we want to neutralize it.” This comes after the Bolsonaro government made the Amazon easily accessible to multinational mining, lumber, and agro-business corporations which lead to burning of the forest and destruction to it and its rivers.

A recent Washington Post article noted that Bolsonaro campaigned last year on promises to open the Amazon for development and that deforestation rates there have nearly doubled since he took office in January.

Pope Francis said earlier this year in the Fourth Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, “Indigenous peoples are a cry of hope. They remind us that human beings have a shared responsibility in the care of the ‘common home’. … The earth suffers and indigenous peoples know of the dialogue with the earth, they know what it means to listen to the earth, to see the earth, to touch the earth. They know the art of living well in harmony with the earth.”

The Synod is extremely important in that it is a universal call to all Catholics—lay and religious—to protect our common home, and one of the main avenues of doing that is protecting the “custodians of nature,” indigenous peoples.

The Preparatory Document of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazon Region in 2018 echoes these words, “Protecting indigenous peoples and their lands represents a fundamental ethical imperative and a basic commitment to human rights. Moreover, it is a moral imperative for the Church, consistent with the approach to integral ecology called for by Laudato Si’ (cf. LS, ch. IV).”

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Claire Stewart Claire Stewart
Claire teaches art classes to vulnerable young children in São Paulo, Brazil.