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Background to the Synod
On Sunday 6 October, Pope Francis opened the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon with an inspiring homily during Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, in which he reminded synod participants that “Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth.”
Pope Francis prayed that the spirit of Jesus “may give us his own daring prudence” and “inspire our synod to renew the paths of the church in Amazonia, so that the fire of mission will continue to burn.” He continued, “God’s fire burns but does not consume. It is the fire of love that illumines, warms and gives life, not a fire that blazes up and devours.”
Speaking specifically of the mission of the Church in the Amazon region, the Holy Father said, “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!
“May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism,” he said. “The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel. 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.”
Pope Francis announced this synod on the Amazon two years ago. It is the follow on to the publication of his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, on care for our common home.
The Synod for the Amazon is focusing on an area that is populated by 34 million inhabitants of a region that stretches across nine countries – Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The region has been called one of the “lungs of the world,” and it provides some 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
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