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Synod on Synodality members at the Catacombs, October 12, 2023Vatican News X/Screenshot

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– In a hugely significant move, participants of the Synod on Synodality were quietly given the text of a secretive pact – first composed by a group of liberal theologians during Vatican II – which is part of a relativistic and “egalitarian” plan embodied and enacted by Pope Francis to “change the identity of the Catholic Church.”

In an article published October 13, Jesuit-run America Magazine revealed that participants of the Synod on Synodality were given a controversial and secret text during their October 12 trip to the Catacombs of Sts. Sebastian, Callistus and Domitilla. (An archive of the America Magazine report is available here.)

The report stated how the prayer booklet given to Synod participants “included the full text of the Pact of the Catacombs.” Of note is that this was not included in the booklet emailed to journalists of the Vatican press corps.

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The text and its being given to the Synod members is hugely significant, with Church historian Professor Roberto de Mattei describing it as the “last act of a process” beginning with Vatican II and culminating in Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality. 

Commenting to LifeSiteNews about the event, de Mattei stated:

The Catacombs Pact distributed to the Synod Fathers last week is not a purely commemorative event, but the last act of a process that began with the Second Vatican Council and has its ultimate expression in the Synodal project encouraged by Pope Francis to change the identity of the Catholic Church, removing any “Constantinian” element and transforming it into an egalitarian and pauperist social agency.

What is the Catacombs Pact?

On November 16, 1965, 42 bishops attending the Second Vatican Council met in the Catacombs of St. Domitilla to compile and sign the “Pact of the Catacombs,” or the Catacombs Pact. The text has remained largely out of the public eye, but is a formulation of 13 key points pertaining to Church life, organization and practice, all based on tenets of the heterodox ideology known as Liberation Theology. 

It highlights aspects which strongly resonate with “social justice” activists of today, such as:

  • Living in the “ordinary manner of our people,” 
  • Rejecting “the appearance and reality of riches” including in dress and belongings, seemingly including liturgical objects,
  • Handing over the finances to laity in the dioceses,
  • Refusing traditional ecclesiastical titles like “Excellency,”
  • Avoiding any semblance of hierarchical treatment, including during the liturgy,
  • To be more focused on the style of “collegiality,”
  • To “be more humanly present, more welcoming,” and to “show ourselves to be open to all, whatever their religion.”

Some accounts suggest the Pact garnered support from as many as 500 bishops at the council.

May be an image of 12 people and the Western Wall
Synod on Synodality members in the Catacombs, October 12, 2023. Facebook screenshot

Who orchestrated it?

In his detailed account of the Second Vatican Council, de Mattei wrote how the pact was proposed by a group of prelates known as the “Church of the Poor,” which he described as one of the three “most important and effective pressure groups of the council.”

The “Church of the Poor” began meeting as early as the first session of the Council, in October 1962.

The late Bishop of Ivrea, Luigi Bettazzi – who until his death in July 2023 was the last remaining signatory of the Pact – stated the text was chiefly written by Archbishop Hélder Câmara, a Brazilian prelate who is described as an “icon” and “father” of liberation theology. 

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The influence of the author must not be underestimated.

Prof. de Mattei records that Câmara’s collaboration with prominent liberal advocate Cardinal Joseph Suenens at Vatican II was “one of the ‘hidden’ driving forces of the conciliar assembly.”

As de Mattei highlights, Câmara described his friend Suenens as “the key man of the Council, certain of the direct and personal trust of the Holy Father.” Câmara defended Suenens’ description as “the world head of progressivism,” adding “he is my leader at the Council.”

Cdl. Joseph Suenens during a video interview

Câmara himself advocated for contraception and an acceptance of divorce during the conciliar years, and is acknowledged as “source of inspiration for Pope Francis,” especially as it was under Francis  that his canonization process was approved in 2015.

Câmara was also vice-president of CELAM at the time of Vatican II, and so had influence over the six hundred or so Latin American prelates.

Nor is the composition of the signatories to be overlooked. 

Bishop Luigi Bettazzi’s signature on the 1965 Pact thus linked the document to the work of other prominent liberal forces at play during those years. Bettazzi, records de Mattei, signed as the representative of Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro – the Archbishop of Bologna.

Lercaro was highly influential in compiling the Novus Ordo liturgy alongside Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, and was one of four moderators appointed by Pope Paul VI to oversee daily proceedings of Vatican II, only weeks after Paul VI was elected pope in June 1963.

READ: Swiss bishop: Pope Francis is undermining Church teaching under ‘democratic’ pretenses

A certain Father Giuseppe Dossetti served as Cdl. Lercaro’s theological advisor. Dossetti was the leading figure behind the so-called “Bologna School,” which promoted the liberal “spirit” of the Council and portrayed traditionalists as enemies. 

De Mattei describes the School of Bologna as “the intellectual laboratory of European ultra-progressivism.”

Thus, the founders and leading lights of extreme liberal forces both in Europe and South America were behind the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs. 

To add to this, the Conciliar fathers’ moves were enacted in other parts of the Church. Commenting on the situation to LifeSiteNews, de Mattei noted that in 1965 also, “Father Pedro Arrupe, the author of a project to reform the Church that turned its foundations upside down along the lines of the Pact of the Catacombs, was elected General of the Society of Jesus.”

It was this same liberal Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Arrupe, who was a mentor for the young Fr. Jorge Bergoglio S.J. and raised him to become a district superior aged only 36. Indeed, Francis praised Arrupe even as recently as this summer, when Pope Francis hailed his “courage.”

Catacombs Pact and Pope Francis

To understand Pope Francis and his direction for the Church it is thus vital to come to grips with his relationship with the text signed by the Council fathers in 1965. For Francis has crucial links with those involved with the document, the ideologies of the text itself and its very aims.

De Mattei told LifeSite that Francis has been in possession of a text of the document from at least the start of his time in the Vatican. “On 21 March 2013, a week after his election, Pope Francis received a copy of the Pact of the Catacombs from the hands of Argentine activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, supporter of Marxist dictators Fidel Castro, Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chaves,” said the historian. 

De Mattei added how in July 2014, the Pope’s favored liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff, “published an article with the title El pacto de las catacumbas vivido por el Papa Francisco, in which, after transcribing the Catacombs Pact of 1965, he concluded with these words: ‘Aren’t these precisely the ideals presented by Pope Francis?’”

In 2015, Bishop Bettazzi stated that the text he and his fellow signatories worked on was now “bearing fruit.” “The pact of the catacombs today… is Pope Francis,” he said. Incidentally, when Bettazzi died in June, Pope Francis described him as “… a man of dialogue and a point of reference for numerous representatives of Italian public and political life.”

Pope Francis and Bishop Bettazzi
Pope Francis and Bishop Bettazzi. Credit: Vatican News

Indeed, with 2015 being the 50th anniversary of the text, there was a renewed interest in the document which had largely remained out of the public consciousness. 

The Washington Post wrote how “perhaps nothing has revived and legitimated the Pact of the Catacombs as much as the surprise election, in March 2013, of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis.”

The heterodox German prelate, Walter Cardinal Kasper, stated to the news outlet that Francis’ “program is to a high degree what the Catacomb Pact was.”

Kasper stated that “now he [Francis] brings it back,” saying that already in 2015 “the Catacomb Pact is everywhere now in discussion.”

Amazon Synod and a new Pact

With Pope Francis being described as the very embodiment of the Pact, it is not surprising that the document has assumed a key role in his pontificate, albeit not quite having the public exposure to be described as having taken center stage. 

Perhaps, though, no clearer sign was given of Francis’ commitment and promotion of the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs than during the 2019 Synod on the Amazon. 

During that synod – which is perhaps most infamously known for its Pachamama pagan idols being honored in the Vatican – a renewed version of the 1965 Pact was signed. (A copy can be viewed here.) 

READ: Many Amazon Synod prelates pledge to preserve native ‘spiritualities’ in alarming Catacomb pact  

In the very same Catacombs of St. Domitilla, a group of cardinals, bishops and Synod members celebrated Mass and signed a “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home.” They were led by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, who proudly announced that he was wearing Archbishop Câmara’s stole. Câmara was a man to whom Hummes “was extremely devoted,” observed de Mattei.

Hummes’s leadership of the 2019 Pact is also a sign of Francis’ approval of the endeavor. Hummes was seated next to Cardinal Bergoglio during the 2013 papal conclave, accompanied the new Pope Francis onto the balcony to greet the crowds on March 13, 2013 and remained in Francis’ own words “a good friend.” Hummes also had key responsibility for the Amazon Synod, serving as relator general – the position now held by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich for the Synod on Synodality. 

READ: Plans to remake Church with ‘Amazonian face’ began with Pope Francis’ 2013 election

As de Mattei commented to LifeSite about the 2019 Pact, “the socio-political Pact of the 1960s became the fifteen-point socio-cosmic pact entitled: ‘Catacombs Pact for the Common Home. For a Church with an Amazonian face, poor and servant, prophetic and Samaritan.’”

Writing about the 2019 Pact at the time, LifeSite’s Jeanne Smits noted how the new text also featured considerably more explicit arguments in favor of ecological and indigenous talking points. 

The new Pact of the Catacombs not only proclaims preferential attention for the poor, as did the first Pact signed in 1965 – the poor now being represented by the indigenous peoples of Amazonia, but also their right to their traditional (pagan and pantheistic) ‘spirituality’ and their right to participate in all Church decisions in their area.

The pantheistic element is present in the Pact in the affirmation of an ‘integral ecology, in which everything is interconnected, the human race and all creation, for all creatures are daughters and sons of the earth.’

“The 1965 Pact has now simply been updated,” wrote Smits.

Here, as in so many aspects of the details regarding the Catacombs Pact, there is further integration of details. For it was the laicized priest Leonardo Boff, who in 2015 likened Francis’ pontificate to the 1965 Catacombs Pact, who is widely credited with providing the theological groundwork for the 2019 Amazon Synod. 

READ: 47-year-old photo shows future Pope Francis with dissident priest who helped engineer Amazon synod 

As Dr. Maike Hickson recounted, Boff’s friendship with Francis dates back decades, and has grown more impactful for the Church since Cardinal Bergoglio assumed the papal throne and kept Boff as a close friend and advisor.

Indeed, evidencing Francis’ commitment to the liberation theology ideals of the Catacombs Pact, Boff claimed in a 2016 interview that Pope Francis is “one of us.” 

“He has turned Liberation Theology into a common property of the Church. And he has widened it,” said Boff.

With Francis now ensuring that members of his pontificate’s major work, the Synod on Synodality, receive the text of the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs, his agenda for the Church is increasingly clear for those who wish to see it.

“Today,” said de Mattei to LifeSite, “this legacy is taken up by an organism that is called a Synod, even though it is not an authentic Synod (the bishops are only a part of its members), and which expresses a magisterium that is not a magisterium, because it lacks the content and form of authentic Catholic teaching.”

Synod on Synodality members in the Church of St. Sebastian at the Catacombs, October 12, 2023. Credit: Vatican News