Synod features ecology and married priests

Pope Francis walks in procession on the occasion of the Amazon synod at the Vatican, on Monday. (Credit: Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP.)

According to a news bulletin released by the Vatican late Monday, climate change and fossil fuels came in for discussion by the roughly 300 participants in the synod, including 184 bishops from the nine South American nations that share a portion of the Amazon rainforest.

“The climate is a global good, it was said, a good which must be cared for and preserved for future generations,” the bulletin quoted participants as saying. “It was suggested to stop using fossil fuels, above all in the most industrialized countries which have the greatest responsibility for pollution.”

Protection of water supply

The Vatican summary also indicated that protection of the region’s water supply was a concern.

“An appeal was raised to protect aquifers from chemical contamination deriving from multinational productions, so that the indigenous populations may survive,” it said.

“Several times bishops recalled the necessity of respecting both human and environmental rights because a truly integral ecology requires a new balance between man and nature.”

It was also reported that some in the synod used the example of teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her “School Strike for Climate” as an example of the “social commitment of youth, capable of pushing the Church to be prophetic in this area.”

On the issue of married priests – more specifically, proposals to ordain so-called viri probati, or tested married men, to serve the Amazon’s isolated rural communities – the bulletin reported both support and caution.

The viri probati are “a matter of a legitimate necessity, it was said in the hall, but it must not prompt a substantial reconsideration of the nature of the priesthood and its relationship with celibacy as required by the Church of the Latin rite,” the bulletin said, summarizing synod discussion.

Respect for indigenous cultures

Perhaps the most intriguing idea to emerge on day one came in the context of synod conversation about the need to demonstrate respect and appreciation for indigenous cultures. According to the bulletin, someone floated the idea of creating a special form of the Catholic Mass for the Amazon blending in certain native customs and expressions.

“One of the proposals advanced was that of thinking about establishing – ad experimentum, and based on sound theological, liturgical and pastoral discernment – an Amazon Catholic rite for living and celebrating faith in Christ,” the bulletin said.

“At bottom, it was underlined in the hall, just as there’s an ecological ecosystem, there’s also an ecclesiastical ecosystem,” it said.

As for consternation, it could be glimpsed in a variety of ways on Monday, including reaction to what seemed a fairly harmless papal laugh line earlier in the day.

During the morning session, Francis devoted a good chunk of his remarks to urging participants to avoid “ideologies” that tend to disrespect indigenous cultures and religiosity. Along the way, he said that just yesterday he’d heard someone object to a native person wearing a colorful feathered headdress in the Vatican.

“What’s the difference between that and the triangle hat some of the cardinals of our dicasteries wear?” he quipped, referring to the biretta that’s a traditional part of the finery for Princes of the Church.

Whatever concern the synod may be eliciting, it clearly doesn’t seem to be cowing Francis, who is missing no opportunity to put the Amazon and Amazonians in the spotlight.