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Pope Francis opens the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region: “May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism”

At the official opening of the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region, the Pope called upon 184 synod fathers to exercise the virtue of prudence, that is indeed “the virtue of governance”,  thereby relinquishing the attitude whereby “this is the way things have always been done.” Reject “new forms of colonialism”, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, that devours “peoples and cultures”

(Foto Siciliani-Gennari/SIR)

“Prudence is the virtue of  governance”. The Pope opened the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region with an unwritten appeal addressed to 184 Synod Fathers to exercise not the virtue of the “customs house” but the virtue of the pastor, as opposed to timidity or indecision. The homily of the Holy Mass for the opening of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, taking place in the Vatican until 27 October, focused on the depiction of a Church which, in the footsteps of Paul – “the greatest missionary” – journeys together to confront the most urgent challenges for the future of what is regarded as the lungs of the Earth. Just like the “new forms of colonialism” whose greed “devours peoples and cultures” with “a fire set by interests that destroy.”

The greatest missionary. The Pope opened the homily entrusting the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region to the Apostle Paul, “the greatest missionary in the Church’s history”, who “helps us to make this “synod”, this “journey together.” “We are bishops because we have received a gift of God”, Francis said: “We did not sign an agreement; we were not handed an employment contract. We received a gift so that we might become a gift. Gifts are not bought, traded or sold; they are received and given away.”

“If we hold on to them, if we make ourselves the centre and not the gift we have received, we become bureaucrats, not shepherds”, cautioned the Pope: “We turn the gift into a job and its gratuitousness vanishes. We end up serving ourselves and using the Church.”

“Thanks to the gift we have received, our lives are directed to service”, Francis underlined, referring to the Gospel expression of “useless servants”, that can also mean “unprofitable servants.” “In other words, we do not serve for the sake of personal profit or gain, but because we received freely and want to give freely in return”, the Holy Father remarked. “Our joy will be entirely in serving, since we were first served by God, who became the servant of us all.”

Say No to “this is the way things have always be done.” “In no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ‘ordinary maintenance’ of those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community”, Francis said quoting Benedict XVI, whom he greeted yesterday together with the 13 newly-created Cardinals after the Consistory. He promptly added: “for the Church is always on the move, always going out and never withdrawn into itself.” “The gift we have received is a fire, a burning love for God and for our brothers and sisters”, he said echoing Saint Paul: “A fire does not burn by itself; it has to be fed or else it dies; it turns into ashes. If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done’, then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.” “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and prudence”, Saint Paul writes.

“Someone may think that prudence is a virtue of the ‘customs house’, that checks everything to ensure that there is no mistake. No, prudence is a Christian virtue; it is a virtue of life, and indeed the virtue of governance.”

As the Catechism teaches, prudence “is not to be confused with timidity or fear”; rather, it is “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” “Prudence is not indecision; it is not a defensive attitude”, Francis specifies: “It is the virtue of the pastor who, in order to serve with wisdom, is able to discern, to be receptive to the newness of the Spirit.” And thus “rekindling our gift in the fire of the Spirit is the opposite of letting things take their course without doing anything.” May “daring prudence” inspire “the paths of the Church in Amazonia.”

Fire that devours; love to the point of martyrdom. “May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism.” In the last part of his homily the Pope explicitly refers to the present situation in Amazonia: “The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits. The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.” “When peoples and cultures are devoured without love and without respect, it is not God’s fire but that of the world.” “Yet how many times has God’s gift been imposed, not offered; how many times has there been colonization rather than evangelization!” On the contrary, to preach the Gospel “is to bear witness to the end, to become all things to all people, to love even to the point of martyrdom”, exclaimed the Pope. He added the impromptu remark:

“I thank God for having in the College of Cardinals some brother cardinals who are martyrs, who have experienced the cross of martyrdom in their lives.” 

“So many of our brothers and sisters in Amazonia are bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the Gospel, the Church’s caress of love. For them, and with them, let us journey together”, concluded the Holy Father immediately after reiterating the invitation “of our beloved Cardinal Hummes” to visit the tombs of missionaries in Amazonia,  who, as the Cardinal said, “deserve to be canonized.”

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