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Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Peru during a session of the Amazon synod. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Amazon synod opens ‘a new chapter’

  • November 23, 2019

OTTAWA -- Respect for the Earth and different cultures and Indigenous communities go hand-in-hand as the Catholic Church moves forward after an historic synod that focused on the Amazon region.

That message from one of the key participants in the synod, Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Peru, was told to an audience at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University on Nov. 12.

Barreto said Pope Francis, in calling the Amazon synod, “is inviting us to a new stage, a new chapter of walking together for our common home.”

Barreto, who was one of three prelates chosen by Pope Francis to oversee the organization of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region that was held in Rome from Oct. 6-27, said humanity faces an ecological crisis, and there is much that can be learned from Indigenous communities and their interaction with the environment as “we listen to the cries of the Earth.”

He said the synod was an opportunity for the Church and those who participated to “listen, discern and act.”

“Science is showing us our common home is sick. Science is not wrong, two plus two is four in any part of the world,” Barreto said, adding that climate change is being driven by human activities.

“Science is important, but conscience is also very important. I am awake, therefore I am not indifferent.

“We as the Catholic Church are not going to solve all the problems of the world,” he said, but added that by walking together with Indigenous communities and Jesus the Church can find a new path to respond to the social and ecological crisis that we face.

“Pope Francis says we are turning the Earth into another waste bin,” Barreto said. 

“We cannot adequately fight this ecological degradation if we don’t pay attention to the causes that are directly related to this degradation which are human and social — a lack of an ethical compass which is a real problem for humanity today, a lack of principles and values.”

Mainstream media coverage of the Amazon synod has focused on internal Church infighting between more conservative factions in the Church and Pope Francis’ push to engage with Indigenous communities to address climate change and a recommendation to allow for married priests to be ordained in the Amazon region.

Barreto, who received an honorary doctorate from Saint Paul University, also met briefly with Environment Minster Catherine McKenna.

McKenna said it was an “inspiring and touching meeting.”

“We need to be working and caring for our common home, its beautiful biodiversity and the Amazon together. We need to take care of this planet — because we only have the one,” she said.

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