On his opening speech at the three-week synod focused on the Amazon, Pope Francis urged bishops to “shake up the status quo” to find ways to protect the Amazon forest and the indigenous people who live in it as criminal forest fires eat their way into the forest to make way for mining and cattle ranching.
Amazon fires have increased enormously in comparison with previous years. It is believed that neo-fascist Brazilian president, who won last year’s election, has encouraged land-grabbers and loggers to set fire to the forest with his inflammatory, anti-ecological discourse. As a consequence, millions of animals have died, including hundreds of big cats.
The genesis of the Amazon synod goes back to 2017, when Pope Francis announced the event to address the urgent issues related to the region as well as the Catholic Church’s interests in the region. As fate would have it, the synod is taking place at a time when the world is talking about the Amazon because of the fires, adding a strong element of timeliness to event in the Vatican.
The synod opened last Sunday. In his opening homily, Francis said: “May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism. The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated the Amazon, is not the fire of the Gospel. The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits. The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.”
The environment is a big part of Francis’ mission at the helm of the Catholic church. His Encyclical on the Environment, called Laudato Si, placed a concern with planetary preservation at the top of the list. Francis has a background in chemistry and works with scientists and an observatory at the Vatican. One of the strongest points of the Laudato Si is the link it makes between climate change and social issues such as global poverty, inequality and consumerism.
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