October is approaching, and with it the Amazon Synod so desired by Pope Francis, which has aroused harsh accusations and controversies. Venezuela is one of the nine South American countries that own this vast territory now more than ever at the center of the global debate. It is, therefore, necessary to listen to a respected voice of the Venezuelan episcopate: that of the cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Jorge Urosa Savino. He is Venezuela’s oldest cardinal and one of the most authoritative voices in the region.
The Nuova BQ had an exclusive meeting with Cardinal Urosa Savino during his recent visit to Rome. Although not among the synod fathers, the Venezuelan cardinal confessed his particular interest in this event: “The problem is not the Synod, to which I would rather contribute so it may be a success for the evangelization and revitalization of the Latin American Church,” said the cardinal, stressing that, “the problem lies in the working document.”
In fact, what do you think of the numerous criticisms that the Instrumentum Laboris has received?
The working document is not of good quality; it has weaknesses and omissions that can and must be corrected. It is very complex also in its structure and even difficult, so it has been much criticized. Consequently, I set myself the task of studying it to help the Synod Fathers overcome the defects and weaknesses of the text, starting from its strengths.
So, let’s start from its strengths
As a Venezuelan bishop, I fully agree to denounce all the violence against the Amazon peoples and territory. The grave exploitation reported in the Instrumentum Laboris also occurs in Venezuela. Specifically, in our Amazon region, the current government has promoted the destruction of the “Arco Minero del Orinoco” (Orinoco Mining Belt) through an aggressive and disorderly mining operation that violates the rights of indigenous peoples. This document highlights the seriousness of the abuses committed against the Amazonian peoples, in particular against the natives.
And your concerns?
This Synod is dedicated to studying the problems of the Church in the Amazon, which encompasses much of South America. However, it is particularly important for the whole Church because both the Pope and those who worked on its preparation give this Synod a universal scope. So this synodal assembly will influence the entire Church and not just the Amazon countries, hence the content of the Instrumentum Laboris is of great importance. But its various topics present are mixed, there are unnecessary repetitions that lengthen the text and reduce its clarity. The text contains numerous cultural, ecological and socio-economic issues while aspects of evangelization and proposals for pastoral action are less present, even though they are more important for us pastors of the Church.
Living in a country that is part of the Amazon territory, how do you see the Amazon approach?
I am amazed by the optimistic and appreciative, almost utopian, vision with which they present the indigenous population of Amazonia in the first part of the text. They present the Amazon almost as a sort of earthly paradise of boundless beauty (IL 22) “full of life and wisdom” (IL5). They also speak of nature in a way foreign to the Christian vision, and of “Mother Earth” as if it were a person (IL 44). On the other hand, the text praises the ancestral wisdom of peoples and proposes building new paths of evangelization in dialogue with this wisdom, because it presupposes that “The unique diversity of the Amazon region . . . suggests a new Pentecost” (IL 30). I wonder: Why should that original diversity evoke a new Pentecost? It would be necessary to deepen the meaning of this statement, at first sight confused and exaggerated.
Is this Amazonian beauty not real?
The description of the Amazonian people is very romantic. The natives are presented as exceptional beings who live in harmony with nature and the Supreme Being. They would personify a utopian, virtuous, kind, naive and trusting “noble savage” – that is, as a wise people in whom the seeds of the Word are said to be found. But in my opinion, this is a very optimistic anthropological vision. The shortcomings of indigenous cultures are ignored, their limitations and failures are omitted. They present idealistic anthropology of “native peoples” very far from Catholic anthropology, and therefore from the biblical and Christian vision of man, who is undoubtedly an image of God, but one beaten by sin and in need of redemption. Here several questions arise: Why is there little talk about the need for salvation and redemption? Why do they say little about intensively strengthening the pastoral and openly evangelizing action of the Church in the Amazon as if Christ were not necessary and the utopia of natural harmony were sufficient?
You mentioned problems with clarity in the text. Which would be the most worrying ones?
The presence of inappropriate and inaccurate language despite being an official text. It talks about the clamor for justice in the Amazon territory and presents this region almost as a person, as a locus theologicus that would be a new source of God’s revelation (IL 18 &19). Here we find a problematic point that requires serious discussion: attributing the category of a new source of revelation to a particular territory and the struggle for justice. Can we speak of the Amazon as a source of a new revelation? Remember that the word revelation in the ecclesiastical magisterium and theology, in general, has a very concrete meaning: the manifestation that God made of himself to humanity through Jesus Christ. We see this clearly in the document Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council, on Divine Revelation (DV2). Thus, full revelation was already present in Jesus Christ and an official document may not employ ambiguous language that obscures theological and doctrinal reality. The Synod will have to adopt greater conceptual, theological and doctrinal rigor.
Is it possible to speak of a true evangelization amid this conceptual confusion that you noted and the lack of pastoral proposals?
A sense of urgency to carry out the evangelizing mission of the Church seems to be absent or very weakly expressed. In the text, the call for conversion is absent, and the invitation to welcome Jesus as one’s only Savior and Redeemer of the human being wounded by sin is not evident. Why does it not say it explicitly? The revitalization of the Church in the Amazon should be at the very center of the text and therefore of the Synod, as Pope Francis himself emphasized in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, no. 14. Instead, it contains a firm defense of ecology and indigenous peoples, leaving aside the most explicit announcement of the kerygma and a more openly evangelizing action for the growth of the Church throughout the Amazon. This imbalance is a great weakness of the text. I hope the Synod Fathers will listen and overcome these problems in their deliberations.
Source: La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana
Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod Watch
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