Beloved Amazon -A Love Letter from Pope Francis
An invitation to dream with him and the people of Amazon.
I read a beautiful love letter from Pope Francis addressed to everybody and in a special way to the people of Amazon. Anyone familiar with the Catholic church documents would immediately sense the difference in Querida Amazonia (the beloved Amazon… I use QA to refer to the document).
If you are looking for a manual with practical solutions and absolute answers to the problems of the Amazon region, this is definitely not the right document. It is written like a poem or a letter sharing the dreams of Pope Francis. After listening to the dreams of the people of Amazon, their elders, religious and bishops from Amazon, and around the world, Pope Francis shares his dreams about Amazon, which extends far beyond the geographical region of Amazon forests. I think we can read it at two levels and both are significant and complementary.
- As a letter from the elder (Pope is the elder of the Catholic church)
- It is an individual dream of a person developed by listening to many dreams.
I think dreams are powerful; it connects the past, the present, and the future; it connects temporality (the domain of time) and eternity too. So, listening to dreams of the Pope is an invitation to start dreaming. And these collective dreams of humanity (and especially of the people of Amazonia) will lead to a new lifestyle and new way of living.
I discuss two features connected to the document… The second is certain takeaways from the document (this is more important) and the first is certain specialties of the document.
The Specialities of the Document
- Reading the document is anytime better than my article. Continue reading only if you are not planning to read the document.
- The frequency of the appearance of some of the words gives us hints towards the style of the document. Inculturation (19), Wonder (2), beauty (8), embrace (6), poor (20), joy (4), mystery(4), acknowledge (6), dream (16), river (22), forest (21), good living (3), justice (11), cry (14), dignity (9), indigenous (35), colonization (5), solidarity/fraternity (8), wisdom, (11), memory (3), community (37), land (17), nature (18), encounter (13), diversity (6), contemplate (8), creation (8), faith (12), love (19), culture (48), holiness (9), life (56), dialogue (15), women (20) are some such words.
- The document is a response post the reflections of a Synod of Bishops. The final document of Synod (by the synod members) is given equal importance as this document.
- A lot of poetry from the secular poets accompanies the document, which is an anomaly in the Church documents.
The timber merchants have members of parliament,
while our Amazonia has no one to defend her…
They exiled the parrots and the monkeys…
the chestnut harvests will never be the same (QA, 9)
Make the river your blood…
Then plant yourself, blossom and grow:
let your roots sink into the ground forever and ever,
and then at last become a canoe,
a skiff, a raft, soil, a jug,
a farmhouse and a man (QA, 31)
Takeaways from the document
- The opening lines of the document speak a lot about the journey we are entering into.
The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all its splendour, its drama, and its mystery. (QA, 1)
2. It speaks of the four dreams of Francis.
Social dream: I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples, and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced.
Cultural dream: I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.
Ecological dream: I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.
Pastoral dream: I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features (QA, 7)
3. The dreams don’t stand separate but are deeply interconnected. For me, all his dreams are expressions of the two commandments of Jesus, to love God and to love the neighbour.
4. Pope acknowledges the injustice meted out to the indigenous people by foreigners, insiders, and some of the missionaries. The human dignity of the indigenous people and the beauty of their land were tossed in the air.
We need to feel outrage, as Moses did (cf. Ex 11:8), as Jesus did (cf. Mk 3:5), as God does in the face of injustice (cf. Am 2:4–8; 5:7–12; Ps 106:40). It is not good for us to become inured to evil; (QA, 15)
5. He acknowledges the prophetic activities of various types of organizations and a lot of missionaries. There is a reminder that the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable.
6. The cultures in the Amazon don’t have a notion of the individual divorced from the community or land. He invites us to learn from that traditional wisdom.
7. He would speak of education as
to cultivate without uprooting, to foster growth without weakening identity, to be supportive without being invasive. (QA, 28)
8. One of the favorite themes of Pope Francis is the relation between the young and the old,
to let older people tell their long stories and for young people to take the time to drink deeply from that source.(QA, 34)
9. He speaks of the importance of contemplation. Our actions become prayer.
We can love it, not simply use it... we can feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it; then the Amazon region will once more become like a mother to us. For we do not look at the world from without but from within… (QA, 55)
if we enter into communion with the forest, our voices will easily blend with its own and become a prayer (QA, 56)
10. He sees Amazon as a locus for theology because it is one of the locations where we see God encountering with his sons and daughters. An invitation is there to discover the Amazonian holiness.
11. The two components of Church preaching should be Kerygma (proclamation of God’s love through Jesus) and fraternal charity. And the church (and the liturgy) should enter into a dialogue with the culture and inculturate itself in that culture. A reminder to the Church leaders is
let’s not clip the wings of the Holy Spirit (QA, 69)
The greatest danger would be to prevent them from encountering Christ by presenting him as an enemy of joy or as someone indifferent to human questions and difficulties (QA, 80)
12. Francis acknowledges some of the beauties of the indigenous cultures,
openness to the action of God, a sense of gratitude for the fruits of the earth, the sacred character of human life and esteem for the family, a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility in common work, the importance of worship, belief in a life beyond this earth, and many other values (QA, 70)
13. There is a constant mention of interculturality, inter-dependence, and inter-connection.
In a true spirit of dialogue, we grow in our ability to grasp the significance of what others say and do, even if we cannot accept it as our own conviction. (QA, 108)
14. He points out the importance of discovering (or re-discovering) the importance of festivity and relaxation associated with our Sunday celebration.
15. He calls for active participation of laity and religious in all the activities of the church, especially where ordination is not required. I strongly feel this can be a starting point to rediscover the importance of baptism in Christian life. The avoidance of mentioning women diaconate and ordination of married priests by the document is a sad reality; it provides an opportunity to move from an ordination-centered Church to a baptism-centered church.
16. He speaks of a way of overcoming the struggles of the interaction between various actors in the play.
Solutions are found by “overflow”, that is, by transcending the contraposition (opposition) that limits our vision and recognizing a greater gift that God is offering. (QA, 105)
17. Francis ends the document with an intercessory prayer to Mary, which ends as
We trust in you, Mother of life.
Do not abandon us
in this dark hour. (QA, 111)
All these and much more are the whispers of 4 dreams (social, cultural, ecological, and pastoral), inviting us to dream with him and the people of Amazonia.
One of those collective dreams may be closer to the dreams of God.