Retired Bishop Erwin Krautler gestures during an interview in Altamira, Brazil. Bishop Krautler served in the Amazon region of Para state and has long been a fierce defender of poor and indigenous peoples in Brazil. CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

Brazilian government should not fear October synod

By  Lise Alves, Catholic News Service
  • September 5, 2019

SAO PAULO -- With a month to go before the start of the Synod of Bishops for Amazon, retired Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu said the Brazilian government should not fear the discussions to be held in Rome.

"The synod is for and by the bishops. Discussions will involve church issues, not sovereign state issues," Bishop Krautler said in a national radio interview Sept. 4.

Since mid-August, Brazil has been embroiled in a crisis due to the widespread burning of the Amazon forest this year. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has insinuated that nongovernmental organizations, many international, were responsible for the increased burnings. He also has hinted that extensive media exposure is the work of "foreign powers" wanting to internationalize the forest.

Bishop Krautler said if government officials read Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," "the text explains how the church views the environment situation."

He said the Brazilian government's concern about losing sovereignty over the Amazon region is exaggerated.

"The Amazon is of global interest," he said, but added, "but it is not a question of sovereignty (rights). No one thinks the Amazon should be internationalized. That is absurd. I don't know where they (government officials) got that idea from."

Bishop Krautler described "Laudato Si'" as a work manual based on talks by the church with several sectors of society.

The bishop, who has been in the Amazon region for more than five decades, said people living outside the forest have little knowledge of what life is like in that region.

"The vision one (world) has of the Amazon is wrong," he said. "The Amazon has turned into a province ... a lumber province, a mineral province ... the last agricultural frontier," he said.

The bishop, who often speaks against construction developments, farmers and loggers who degrade the Amazon forest, has been on a hit list for at least a decade and has been under police protection.

Bishop Krautler was instrumental in helping bring to justice the killers of Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who was assassinated in 2005 due to her work with landless peasants in the Amazon region.

He said the October synod scheduled by Pope Francis has the objective of uniting the bishops of the nine countries that make up the Amazon region.

"We will discuss issues of the church. We have a mission; we have an obligation to fight for our common home."

The synod working document briefly touches on the issue of allowing priests to marry; Bishop Krautler said the issue for the Amazon region focuses primarily on access to the Mass.

"The Eucharist we celebrate every Sunday is the center of our faith," he said. "Here in the Xingu alone we have 800 communities and only 30 priests, several of who are already over 70 years old.

"The question, then, is how can we provide (Sunday) Eucharist to all communities, or at least during the important Catholic festivities, such as Easter and Christmas," he said.

"Priests appear in some of these communities two, three times per year. It is unbearable," he added.

Bishop Krautler said the synod has two objectives: One, to discuss new paths for the church in region, and two, to discuss integral ecology.

"The bishops of the Amazon know the Amazon much better than the politicians," he said. "They have the obligation to talk and discuss what is necessary (for the region)."

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