VATICAN CITY — As the Amazon synod nears a close, a communications official downplayed Wednesday the importance of the assembly’s final report, saying it is not an official Church document, but merely an “instrument” in the synodal journey.
Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, communications secretary for the Amazon synod, told journalists Oct. 23 that the assembly’s final document “is not the objective of the synod, but an instrument for going forward all together.”
“In the elaboration phase of the final text, if the synod is a walking together, making these steps together for the Amazon, and for finding new paths of the Church in integral ecology, the instrument that helps in this journey is the final document,” he stated.
Father Costa’s comments were made during a news conference on the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, a three-week meeting at the Vatican that will end Oct. 27.
The Amazon synod’s final document, which is essentially a set of recommendations given to Pope Francis, will be voted on by synod members Saturday. It requires a two-thirds majority to pass. It has not yet been confirmed if the document will be voted on paragraph by paragraph, as in the past, or as a whole.
Father Costa noted the advisory nature of the document in his comments, stating that the text is “entrusted to the last discernment of the Pope. He will then receive it, and he will underline in an official way the next steps.”
The work of the synod participants in the last several weeks has been “profound listening,” not looking for “the minority, the majority” on certain issues, he said, adding that, “sure, numbers count. However, in all of this … everyone has contributed in an original way to construct, to put down these ‘stones’ to make a shared path.”
Father Costa said the period of the drafting and revising of the Amazon synod’s final text is, therefore, “a very delicate phase, meriting also a certain respect.” The preceding steps having taken place, and “now, with faith, we await the last step,” he said.
A team chaired by the synod’s relator general, Cardinal Claudio Hummes (a Brazilian and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy), is principally responsible for writing the final report, according to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who is a member of the final report drafting committee.
At the same news conference, Bishop Gilberto Alfredo Vizcarra Mori, vicar apostolic of Jaén in Peru, spoke about an experience he had before the synod. He spent one month with an indigenous community in part of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest as preparation, he said.
Bishop Vizcarra said that he went there to “walk with them in the middle of the jungle, to talk to these communities, to live not as someone who will teach, because you can’t teach there; you have to depend on them to go into the jungle and discover what it is to live in the jungle.”
The bishop added that after that experience of a month with native people, he is “surprised at how far this world is from us, how difficult it is to be able to understand those categories that we use to define this world [of the Amazon].”
“Biome” is just a concept to most people, he said, but “being there and living in the jungle allows us to understand what this is.”
“The natives feel like themselves as part of a whole life that is composed of so much diversity, of such wonder,” Bishop Vizcarra explained, “and that then it is a gift for them and therefore they do not consider themselves a part of this world, of this biome, not as owners or possessors, but as living in the Amazon, being part of this Amazon.”
The synod, he said, should make Catholics better understand the relationship of human beings with the world around them.
Bishop Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán of Potosí spoke about the participation of women in society and the Church. He noted that women are very active in the Church, but not at the level of decision making.
This change must happen at the local level, he said, adding that he wishes to see pastoral councils move from advisory to deliberative. “To walk together is to decide together,” he said.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay said he thinks there is much more bishops can do to include women in the leadership of the Church.
“I think we bishops are the ones who are not really using the full opportunities that we have to give women much more, which we should, really,” he said, explaining that per canon law women are not the ordinary ministers of any sacraments, but they can do “practically everything else.”
He noted that Code 517.2 provides: “If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.
Cardinal Gracias stated: “Women can be teachers; women can be running the parish; they can be organizing; they can be judges of our tribunal. So there is very, very much more that we can do at the moment, and I think we must use all this.”
Bishop Zenildo Luiz Pereira da Silva, prelate of Borba, responded to a question about different interpretations of the Amazon synod by the media, stating that these differences will always be there, but dialogue is always welcome.
The participation of media, both Catholic and secular, is constructive, not threatening, he added.