As the Caravan to collect signatures in the Amazon Region continues, Synod Watch will be publishing day-by-day impressions of the campaigns, written by an American volunteer.
Monday, July 8, 2019 – Cuiabá, Brazil |First Day of Caravan
Today was the start of the Caravan, launched by the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute (IPCO), that will visit several cities of the Brazilian Amazon region. More than 40 young volunteers are participating in the caravan, with a goal to collect signatures for a petition addressed to the secretary of the Amazon Synod, in defense of the sovereignty of the Brazilian Amazon and the continued traditional evangelization of the Indians.
The first campaign of the Caravan started off at about 11 a.m. in the central plaza of the city of Cuiaba. The plaza and the surrounding shops which fringed it were bustling with people and the eye-catching golden standards of the IPCO were hard to miss. Not only that, the many volunteers of the caravan who moved about the plaza with clipboards were also accompanied by a full complement of musicians in a regimented band. Patriotic and religious hymns inspired many of the public to approach the young men and inquire about the petition.
The collection of signatures continued through lunchtime, and by the end of the campaign at around 4:30 p.m., thanks be to Our Lady, over 2,500 signatures had been gathered.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019- Cáceres, Brazil |Second Day of Caravan
The blistering heat made the day feel much longer today. It felt like it could have been around 40 degrees Celsius at midday. The Caravan stopped off at the city of Cáceres today on the banks of the Paraguai River.
Cáceres is symbolic for the line of demarcation between Spain and Portugal which was established in the 1750´s.
The campaign began in front of the Cathedral of Saint Louis, in the main plaza of the city. This time was a little different from yesterday. Not very many people were to be found in the plaza, so instead of staying put, the members of the campaign split into two groups, the band included, and paraded down separate side streets, gathering signatures from passersby, houses and shop keepers alike. The campaign lasted from about 2:30 until 6:00 and at the end the volunteers were rewarded with a view of the beautiful sunset over the Paraguai River. Thanks be to Our Lady, the IPCO campaign successfully collected over 1,500 signatures.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 – Vilhena, Brazil |Third Day of Caravan
Today, after a long and arduous drive, the caravan crossed into the Brazilian state of Rondônia. Everywhere the caravan goes in their four large vans, they turn heads. Gas stations, restaurants, you name it, people want to know where the 40 well-dressed young men are from and what they are doing.
The campaign started late in the afternoon, around 4 p.m. The group stayed together today but continued yesterday´s tactic of parading down the main streets of the city, stopping every block or so to allow the volunteers to collect signatures from passersby. Thanks to the attention-grabbing band, many more signatures were collected than normal. When people inside shops and restaurants hear the fanfare passing by, they generally come outside to see what is going on, allowing for the clipboard wielding young men to talk to them about the petition. In a little more than two hours, the campaign finished after sunset with over 1,000 signatures.
Thursday, July 11, 2019 – Cacoal, Brazil |Fourth Day of Caravan
The days have become so full of activity, that it is hard to remember and distinguish one from the next.
About the highways, we have started to see beautiful flowers growing along either side of the road. Orange flowers grow off of vines which wrap around trees and bushes, purple flowers that resemble bunches of grapes sway in the passing wind and yellow flowers bloom on the branches of some of the trees. All this, in addition to the incredible parrots with red, blue, yellow and green feathers which occasionally fly overhead, serve as a reminder that we are truly in the Amazon region.
We started our campaign in the city of Cacoal at around 2:30 in the afternoon. People in the streets were very eager to sign and shopkeepers in particular liked to have longer conversations about the issue. One man was particularly indignant at the thought of turning over the Amazon to radical ecologists and NGOs. “Of course I´ll sign!” he said, “The Amazon is ours, it belongs to Brazil. We know how to take care of it!” Ending the campaign a little early at 5:30, everyone was glad to hear that over 1,400 signatures had been gathered. May Our lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil, continue to bless our Caravan in the Land of the Holy Cross, and protect her children in the Amazon region.
Friday, July 12, 2019 – Ji-Paraná, Brazil |Fifth Day of Caravan
Today´s routine was a little different from the rest. We started our campaign before lunch, around 11 a.m., and collected signatures until one o´clock in the afternoon. The city of Ji- Paraná was bustling with people, especially on the main street, and the band didn´t have to move around too much to attract people to the campaign. We managed to collect close to 1,000 signatures before we had to continue our long trek further north.
The landscape continues to look more like what one would imagine the Amazon to look like. Large grey boulders have begun to appear in the fields we drive past, as well as different types of trees. What doesn´t change though, is the constant presence of things which remind one of the Catholic identity of Brazil. Roadside shrines to Our Lady can be seen on the highways. Gas stations have advertisements for Catholic Masses intended especially for truck drivers. Farmers’ fields have statues of Christ the Redeemer watching over their crops and cattle. Pharmacies are named after saints and every city plaza is built in front of a Church or Cathedral. The very soul of Brazil is Catholic, and this is what we are fighting to defend.
Saturday, July 13, 2019 – Ariquemes, Brazil |Sixth Day of Caravan
The campaign started early at around 10 a.m. and finished about noon. Right when we started our campaign, there was a parade down the main street with people on horseback and many head of cattle. The people in the parade didn´t quite know what to make of us, and we of them. The announcer on the lead float mistakenly welcomed us as the marching band of the local Military police.
We changed course and rather than compete with the parade on the main street, we started down an area of the town with a kind of open-air strip mall. This turned out to be better than our original plan as, being a Saturday, the area was full of people shopping for different things. Very few people have actually heard about the Synod on the Amazon, which shows the importance of the Caravan´s efforts to alert public opinion about the issue. The campaign ended at noon, and after a final count, the tally of signatures for the day reached over 1,700!
After a quick lunch we set off and after several hours, finally arrived at the city of Porto Velho. In the evening, after mass at a Church in the city, an interesting confrontation with a priest took place. Some of the volunteers were explaining the goal of the caravan to him in the back of the Church when he interrupted, saying, “I know who you are. You oppose the pope and what you´re doing is without proper authorization!” He then left. Another member was talking to a group of women outside. All of a sudden, the priest showed up again, and disrupted their conversation and said, “Whatever he’s saying don’t listen to him and don’t sign anything he offers you, his group is against the Pope!” Then the priest retreated a second time. Hearing this, the group of women, rather than stop their conversation with the volunteers, apologized to them, ashamed of the priest’s behavior. “Please don´t worry about it,” they said, “We don´t really know him, he´s not our usual priest, he´s a leftist. This parish is mostly conservative, just like you right?”
Repercussions from the campaign
A volunteer approached an older woman and asked her to sign. She was unsure but when a young man she knew passed by, she stopped him and asked the volunteer to explain to him for her. Right as the volunteer started to explain, the young man interrupted him and asked, “Is this from the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute?” The volunteer replied that it was. The young man then turned to the woman and said, “If it’s from IPCO, you can sign it, because the things from them are always good.” After saying this, the young man explained that he had read the working document of the Synod on the Amazon and that everything which it said was really absurd and should not be approved. He said he really liked what we were doing and cautioned us that there are a lot of Liberation Theology Priests in the diocese.
Before the mass at one of the churches we visited during our travels, one of the volunteers explained the purpose of the Caravan to the local priest. At the end of the mass the same volunteer was called to the podium in this manner; “We would like to invite the representative of the Plinio Corrêa Society that is doing a campaign in the city that is very important for the Church and for Brazil.”
Many different Protestants showed themselves to be against the idea of married priests.
After signing the petition, a person said, “You should tell this to the whole country. No! You should tell this to the whole world!”
Another woman who signed the petition said, “They want to do this in the Church? What they actually want to do is create a new Church, this is not that which the Church has always taught.”