VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis denounced exploitation and “predatory models of development” that plunder the poor and wound “sister Earth” in the Amazon synod closing Mass Sunday.
“In this synod we have had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and reflecting on the precariousness of their lives, threatened by predatory models of development,” Pope Francis said in his homily Oct. 27.
“The mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister Earth: We have seen it in the scarred face of the Amazon region,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Francis said that throughout history people who have considered themselves superior to others have “made other people feel rejected” by “considering them backward and of little worth.”
“They despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy their lands and usurp their goods,” he said.
“How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today,” he added. “We have seen this in our discussions at the synod."
The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica served as the official close of the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region, which took place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27. The synod final document approved by the 181 voting bishops Oct. 26 calls for the ordination of married men in the Amazon region and an ecological conversion for the entire Church.
“How many times, even in the Church, have the voices of the poor not been heard and perhaps scoffed at or silenced because they are inconvenient,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis’ crosier for the closing Mass was a gift from members of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon. A woman carried a plant in the opening procession as the choir sang St. Francis’ Canticle, Laudato Si. She later presented the plant to Pope Francis during the presentation of the gifts.
The controversial statues “symbolizing life” that the Pope said might be displayed in the basilica for the closing Mass were not present.
Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel from Luke in which a Pharisee’s prayer is “I thank you God that I am not like the rest of humanity,” while a tax collector prays for the mercy of God.
“The root of every spiritual error, as the ancient monks taught, is believing ourselves to be righteous,” Francis warned.
The Pope said that the Pharisee was “brimming with self-assurance about his own ability to keep the commandments” and was focused only on himself, forgetting to love God and his neighbor.
“He stands in the temple of God, but the one he worships is himself,” Pope Francis said.
“There are many Catholic groups who do the same,” he added in a departure from his prepared remarks.
“Worship of self carries on hypocritically, with its rites and ‘prayers,’ forgetting the true worship of God, and many of these have been Catholics, Catholics who have forgotten to express love to one’s neighbor. Even Christians who pray and go to Mass on Sunday are subject to this religion of the self,” he added.
Pope Francis said that the prayer of those who presume themselves righteous remains earthly, “crushed by the gravitational force of egoism,” while the prayer of the poor person rises directly to God.
“Let us pray for the grace not to consider ourselves superior, not to believe that we are alright, not to become cynical and scornful. Let us ask Jesus to heal us of speaking ill and complaining about others, of despising this or that person: These things are displeasing to God,” he said.
Catholic indigneous people from the Amazon were special guests at the Mass, as were members from the L’Arche community, an initiative that supports people with intellectual disabilities.
Pope Francis said: “Let us pray for the grace to be able to listen to the cry of the poor: This is the cry of hope of the Church. When we make their cry our own, our prayer, too, will reach to the clouds.”