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December 5, 2019
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Regional Church dialogue begins on saving Amazon, earth

The first regional online discussion on the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region was held November 27. This dialogue, a joint initiative of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) and Signis Caribbean, disseminated information about the synod and served as a catalyst to propel the region into action.

Collaborators included President of the AEC Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica, Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo, Suriname (via video), and President of Signis Caribbean, Lisa Bhajan of Trinidad & Tobago, as well as several representatives from arch/dioceses across the region.

One of the main questions asked by several people at the emergence of the synod was—why a synod on the Amazon?

Joel Thompson, a member of the Amazonian Church Network, answered this question, explaining that the network, comprising all nine countries of the Amazon, was formed to spearhead the consultation process over the two-year preparation period for the synod.

They engaged in discussions with over 87,000 people from the Amazonia region. The synod emerged as a response to several concerns which Pope Francis had regarding the protection of the Amazon region, and it was also one of the ways of ensuring the application of Laudato Si’.

Bishop Choennie stressed that the Church recognised that the earth was “crying out for attention” and thus, wanted to emphasise the need to change from a culture of destruction to a culture of harmony.

Leah Casimero, one of the youngest auditors at the synod from the Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana, gave a heartfelt testimony of the ‘Amazon going to Rome’. Her moving recall of the synod brought to the fore the need for all to work together to address the ongoing challenges faced by the Amazon.

Significantly, while at the synod, Casimero shared the story of her people, the Wapishana, and their current pilot programme which seeks to integrate their language into the national school’s curriculum. Through this discussion, collaborators were able to understand the significance of having the indigenous people present at the synod to share their experience.

In the discussion, Bishop Malzaire recognised that the leadership and clergy would have greater influence in promoting change within the laity when they become more conscious of the upcoming Apostolic Exhortation. He called for the implementation of practical measures to enable the earth to ‘breathe’ properly again.

This preliminary dialogue has resulted in the recognition that the regional Church must urgently develop programmes that will promote change in our current lifestyle so that the “lungs of the earth” will be resuscitated.

— Rachael Mair,
Archdiocese of Kingston, Jamaica,
discussion participant