February 17, 2020

A Short Reflection on the Post- Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis, 'Querida Amazonia'

Representatives of the Amazon Rainforest's ethnic groups, Catholic prelates, Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Ricardo Barreto (Rear C) and Pope Francis (C-R) march in procession during the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region on October 7, 2019 outside St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Getty Images/Andreas Solaro. Used under licence

I am delighted to offer this short reflection on Pope Francis', Exhortation entitled Querida Amazonia or Beloved Amazon. I will briefly draw the reader’s attention to some of the points that did not make the headlines here in Ireland, which focused purely on the question of married priests.

It is important to note that, while the title of this Exhortation is Querida Amazonia [Beloved Amazon], the document is addressed to “the people of God and to all people of good will.” The Synod for the Amazon, the Final Document and this Exhortation form a unit that is an urgent call to the universal Church to ecological conversion, reminding us that everything in interconnected.

The Exhortation is Pope Francis’ personal response to the Synod and complements the Final Document entitled: New Paths for the Church and Integral Ecology. The Final Document from the Synod consists of 5 chapters and 120 paragraphs each covering new paths for pastoral, cultural, ecological and synodal conversation. It was approved with a two-thirds majority vote.

In his Exhortation Pope Francis, “officially presents the Final Document,” which he acknowledges, “profited from the participation of many who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they live it passionately”(3).  He has given the Final Document its own status and does not see this Exhortation as a replacement for it, which is to be welcomed. He “encourages everyone to read the Final Document in full”(3) and he prays that the “entire Church will be enriched and challenged by the work of the synodal assembly”(4). Synodality is a constant theme for Pope Francis, where he believes in engaging the whole Church, in all its diversity, in the process of discernment.

In his Exhortation, Pope Francis presents four great dreams (Social, Cultural, Ecological and Ecclesial) that the Amazon region inspires. He develops in detail each of these dreams.

Pope Francis asks us to be on the side of the Amazonian people, to hear their pleas but to do so in a spirit of encounter and dialogue, “beginning by listening to the poor”(26). He acknowledges the destructive role of the Church during the so called conquest of the Americas and throughout the history of the Amazon region and reiterates his apology (19). He warns against new forms of colonisation and corruption, asking us to listen to and journey with the indigenous peoples so that we can learn to “love the region, not simply use it, feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it; so that the Amazon region will once more become like a mother to us”(55). He calls on all of us to examine and change our “consumeristic lifestyle and the culture of waste” by reflecting on the consequences that our decisions have on the environment. In addressing the area of inculturation, he challenges us to “imagine a holiness with Amazonian features, called to challenge the universal Church”(77). He affirms the role of base Christian communities (96) and calls for more opportunities for women to “access positions, including ecclesial services but not Holy Orders” (103). We need to recognise that we are “united by the struggle for peace and justice”(109). So “how can we not struggle together? How can we not pray and work together, side by side, to defend the poor of the Amazon region, to show the sacred countenance of the Lord, and to care for God’s creation?”(110). 

It is imperative that we all read in full and reflect on both the Final Document and Pope Francis' Exhortation. The Synod on the Amazon set out New Paths for the Church and Integral Ecology. This is only the beginning as Synodality is an ongoing process.

Messages to: Sheila Curran rsm

Editor: Sheila Curran rsm is currently preparing a longer article to be published in Doctrine and Life and in Mercy eNews. Readers will be advised when this becomes available. 
The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in the U.S. has produced a Study Guide which may prove a further helpful introduction to this Apostolic Exhortation. Access the Guide here.


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