The Amazon Synod to be held in Rome in October is all focused on “listening”. This word occurs 45 times in the Instrumentum laboris. The Synod itself is understood as “a process of synodal listening”, a “privileged instrument of listening”, a “dynamic process of listening” (no. 1:5). What do they really want to “listen” to? Considering the Amazon a “new theological subject”, the Synod wants to “listen to this area”, to “listen to the people and the land”: “Listening implies recognizing the dramatic emergence of the Amazon as a new subject” (no. 2).
The Synod therefore upends the Church’s two-thousand year approach: it does not want to evangelize the Amazon but rather to “amazonize” the Church. It does not seek a missionary Church but a “listening Church”; not a Church that teaches but a Church that learns (No. 144). It does not want an Amazonian Christianity but rather “a Church with an Amazonian face” (nos. 7, 110, 111).
The Synod manages to pull this incredible tour de force by turning the concept of Revelation upside down. Following in the footsteps of Indigenous Liberation Theology, the Instrumentum laboris insinuates that there is a primitive Revelation inherent in nature, in the light of which one should interpret the Revelation of Jesus Christ. According to the Vatican document, the Amazon is a “theological place”, epiphanic places where the reserve of life and wisdom for the planet is manifest, a life and wisdom that speaks of God” (No. 19). While we Westerners have supposedly lost our way, the natives maintained contact with the primitive Revelation: “The life of Amazon communities not yet influenced by Western civilization is reflected in the beliefs and rites regarding the actions of spirits, of the many-named divinity acting with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature” (no. 25).
Also: “The original peoples of the Amazon have much to teach us. We recognize that for thousands of years they have taken care of their land, water and forest, and have managed to preserve them until today so that humanity can benefit from enjoying God’s free gifts of creation. The new paths of evangelization must be built in dialogue with the ancestral wisdom in which the seeds of the Word become manifest” (no. 29).
To substantiate these and other similar statements, the Synod document mentions ecclesial bodies and NGOs linked to so-called “indigenist” currents. Some Amazonian leaders, such as the Kayapó chief Raoni Metuktire, are also presented with great fanfare. According to the Instrumentum laboris they are “the voice of the Amazon” (Part 1).
The big question is: do these agencies and leaders really represent the Amazon Indians? Are they really their “voice”? In other words, is the Synod “listening” to the real Amazon or to an imaginary Amazon, a dream Amazon created by indigenist currents according to certain ideological preconceptions?
“We initially believed in the NGOs that spoke on behalf of indigenous peoples, but now we have awakened,” says the Brazilian Indian Kayna Munduruku, spokeswoman for the Fundação Estadual do Indio (Indian State Foundation), an advocate for the rights of Amazonian peoples for decades. “These self-proclaimed ‘indigenist’ organizations pretend to tell us who we are,” Kayna continues, but “who gave them the right to speak in our name? We, indigenous people, are the ones who know who we are. We do not need indigenists or anthropologists. We, the peoples of the forest, know who we are. I believe that indigenous NGOs have meddled into affairs that do not concern them.”
She then makes a point that the European media are trying to dodge at all costs: the big turnover behind the NGOs: “These are millionaire NGOs. The indigenous leaders who have joined NGOs are extremely well off from the economic point of view, while the indigenous peoples themselves remain in extreme poverty. We, natives, ask: why give so much money to NGOs if it does not benefit our peoples?”
The words of Kayna Munduruku seem to be confirmed by the extraordinary success that the “Amazon Caravan” promoted by the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute is encountering. They are about forty young people traveling through the Amazon regions of Brazil collecting signatures for a petition to Pope Francis asking him not to listen to indigenous currents but to authentic natives of the area. “We want to preserve our Catholic traditions and the moral values of our peoples,” the document reads. They collect an average of one to two thousand signatures daily, a fact that clearly shows how Amazon populations reject every attempt at ideological manipulation.
A similar caravan has left Lima for the Peruvian Amazon taking a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In addition to traveling through several cities in the regions of Amazonas, San Martín and Loreto, the caravan is also visiting remote indigenous villages which can only be accessed by pirogue.
The two groups of young people will meet at the border in the middle of the forest, where they will pray a Holy Rosary together for the Catholic greatness of their continent.