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Pre-Amazon Synod private meeting calls for female diaconate, Vatican in attendance

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

ROME, June 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A final report from this week’s private and unannounced Pre-Amazonian Synod “study meeting” is openly calling for the Church to reconsider the female diaconate and to ordain married men in the Latin Rite. It is also urging the Oct. 6-27 synod of bishops to put in place the necessary structures to implement this agenda.

The report, published by REPAM (The Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) on June 26, is the fruit of a private symposium organized and attended by key German prelates and Vatican officials, including Cardinal Walter Kasper and the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. 

REPAM was set up in 2014 by the nine Churches of the Amazon region, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela. Inspired by Pope Francis and backed by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, CELAM, the network aims to “bring to the world’s attention the fragile situation of indigenous people in the Amazon and the critical importance of the Amazon biome to the planet — our common home.” 

According to the REPAM report, the purpose of the three-day symposium was to “look in depth” at the Amazon Synod’s controversial working document [Instrumentum laboris]. The document, which will form the basis for discussion at the October Synod, came under unprecedented criticism on Thursday, when German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science and one of the four dubia cardinals, issued a statement calling it “heretical” and approaching “apostasy.”

The Pre-Amazonian Synod “study-meeting” was held at a gated hilltop convent on the outskirts of Rome on June 24-26.  News of the meeting came to light on June 25, through independent reports by respected Italian journalist Marco Tosatti, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, and Maike Hickson of LifeSiteNews. 

On June 26, LifeSiteNews obtained the list of participants, which may be viewed here

Below are the key paragraphs on celibacy and the female diaconate from the REPAM final report:

A glance at the history of the Church showed us that the ordination of married men does not break with ecclesial tradition. Since the beginning of the Church, together with celibate ministers, the possibility of married ministers has been maintained, as is the case in the Eastern Catholic Churches and, in some cases, where married ministers of other Christian confessions have asked to be part of the Latin Church.

This symposium suggests that married men with Christian experience be ordained to the priestly ministry to serve the community from their profession and family life, and to celebrate the Eucharist, penance and the anointing of the sick in their community. It is requested that “instead of leaving communities without the Eucharist, the criteria for selecting and preparing ministers authorized to celebrate Eucharist should be changed” (IL 126c).

We appreciate celibacy as a charism at the service of the Church. At the same time, we are aware that its obligatory nature for priestly ministry is a law of the Latin Church. We also note that in the Latin Church itself, dispensations have been granted to ordain married men. Therefore, considering the needs of the Church in the Amazon, not only celibates, but also married men should be admitted to the priestly ministry.

From listening to the reality of the Amazon, the indispensable mission that women have is evident. Therefore, [the working document] urges the Church to “identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role that they play today in the Amazon Church.” (cf. IL 129a3). In this sense, we propose that their leadership be recognized, promoting various ministerial forms of exercising service and authority, and in particular, that reflection on the female diaconate be taken up again in the perspective of Vatican II (cf. LG 29, AG 16 IL 129 c2). With persistent hope, we trust that synodal dissertations will contribute to promoting the dignity and equality of women in the public, private and ecclesial spheres (IL 146).

The report concludes by recalling one of the final proposals of the Instrumentum Laboris, which adresses how its proposals ought to be implemented. Quoting the working document, the report says: “Given the specific characteristics of the Amazon territory, the need for an Amazon episcopal structure to implement the Synod ought to be considered.” (IL 129 f 3).

The full final report may be read here in Spanish. A working English translation of the REPAM report may be read here below. 

 

REPAM FINAL REPORT

Rome, June 26, 2019

On October 15, 2017, Pope Francis announced the meeting of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region. With his visit to Puerto Maldonado (January 19, 2018) in the same region, he began the process of synodal listening. According to the Constitution Episcopalis Communio,a synod unfolds in three successive phases: preparation; celebration; action. Now we are passing through the stage of preparation, consultation and listening aimed at the realization of the synodal assembly.

  1. On the journey of the Synod

The Synod has a single theme: AMAZONIA: NEW WAYS FOR THE CHURCH AND FOR AN INTEGRAL ECOLOGY. The theme considers the Amazon not only as a socio-cultural territory, but as a Church with its own face, as a new ecclesial subject. The decisive aspect is the search for new paths both for ecclesial life and for integral ecology.

At this stage, we are studying the Instrumentum Laboris(IL), which is the fruit of this long process of listening, and its purpose is to develop the synodal theme in an orderly but provisional way. The document clearly expresses that the process will continue with the stage of reception and action: “This process must continue during and after the Synod, as a central element of the future life of the Church” (IL 3).

“The Working Document consists of three parts. The first involves seeing-listening and is entitled ‘The Voice of the Amazon’; its purpose is to present the reality of the territory and its peoples. The second part, ‘Integral Ecology: the cry of the earth and of the poor,’ sets out the ecological and pastoral problems, while the third part, ‘A Prophetic Church in the Amazon: challenges and hopes,’ is devoted to ecclesiological and pastoral issues.” (IL 4).

Our symposium was convened by REPAM to be a space for reflection, dialogue and proposal in this phase of preparation for the synodal assembly. In the framework of the third ecclesiological part of the IL we reflected on ecclesial ministries from biblical, historical, systematic, pastoral and canonical perspectives. This contribution wishes to collaborate with the Synod Fathers and all those interested in the Synod.

  1. In our symposium we consider that

The Amazon is a “locus of theological thought” [locus theologicus] (IL 144), a region where God calls us, a place of paschal experience, a “wounded “place (IL 23) of the poor and others, a place of migration, of “discord and extermination of peoples” (IL 23), but also a place of hope and “good living” (IL 24). At the same time, the Amazon is a place of great geographical distances, biological diversities and cultural differences which, in the pastoral care of the Church, have not yet been adequately taken up.

The Synod asks us to listen to the “Voice of the Amazon” (IL part I), to listen to the cry of the disputed land, of the poor and of others: indigenous people, urban dwellers, riparians, mestizos, land occupiers, afro-descendants and peasants, social groups differentiated by their multiple cultures (IL part II), and at the same time to listen to the challenges and hopes of a prophetic, Samaritan and dialogical Church (IL part III).

The Amazon is a land disputed not only by multinational economic groups, but also by groups that propagate a theology of prosperity based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible. These groups are attractive to people even though they do not value their cultures positively.

To a great extent, these movements have made headway through the lack of a presence of Catholic ministers for a long time, and the lack of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is constitutive of the Church, and is the source and summit of Christian life. This absence of the sacraments puts the sacramental structure of the Church at risk.

A glance at the history of the Church showed us that the ordination of married men does not break with ecclesial tradition. Since the beginning of the Church, together with celibate ministers, the possibility of married ministers has been maintained, as is the case in the Eastern Catholic Churches and, in some cases, where married ministers of other Christian confessions have asked to be part of the Latin Church.

  1. From our symposium we propose

That the Synod begin its work by assuming a threefold conversion (cf. IL 5, 102, 103):

(a) the “pastoral conversion” of a Church that wants to be Samaritan and prophetic (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium),

(b) “ecological conversion: (integral ecology proposed by the Encyclical Laudato Si), and

(c) “synodal conversion” (Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio) which structures the episcopal function as that of “master and disciple” and recognizes the participation of all the baptized who make up the People of God, and who have received the Spirit which makes them “infallible in credendo” (EC 5,3; 20).

“The process of conversion to which the Church is called involved unlearning, learning and relearning. This path requires a critical and self-critical regard that allows us to identify what we need to unlearn, what harms our common home and its inhabitants. We need take an inner journey to find the attitudes and mentalities that prevent us from connecting with ourselves, with others and with nature.” (IL 102).

The Synod should not be content with dealing with this or that symptom of the ecclesial situation. We must change our mentality. We must go to the causes. We need to look and act differently, more evangelically and with the sense of Pentecost: “The cosmovision of the Amazon’s indigenous peoples includes the call to free themselves from a fragmented vision of reality, which is not capable of perceiving the multiple connections, interrelations and interdependencies” (IL 95).

This different outlook demands a Church in missionary departure to and from the peripheries, overcoming the colonizing mentality in search of “a more robust incarnation in order to embrace different ways of life and cultures” (IL 113). This more robust incarnation of the Amazonian face of the Church “is manifest in the multiplicity of its peoples, cultures and ecosystems [...], in all its activities, expressions and languages” (IL 107). The Instrumentum Laboriscites the Document of Santo Domingo: “the goal of an inculturated evangelization will always be the salvation and integral liberation of a given people or human group, which will strengthen their identity and confidence in their specific future, opposing the powers of death” (DSD 243). In Puerto Maldonado, Pope Francis pointed to the subjects of this inculturation: “We need the native peoples to shape the culture of the local churches in Amazonia” (Fr.PM).

In proposing the Amazonian peoples as subjects of inculturation, we adopt the direction of Pope Francis to “overcome the rigidity of a discipline that excludes and alienates, and practice a pastoral sensitivity that accompanies and integrates" (IL 126b; AL, 297 and 312).

In the Amazon, as a consequence of great distances, but also because of a theology of the local community and the people of God, everything points to a “healthy ‘decentralization’ of the Church” (IL 126d; EG, 16), which demands that “a ‘pastoral ministry of visiting’ give way to a ‘pastoral ministry of presence’,” in order to “reconfigure the local church in all its dimensions: ministries, liturgy, sacraments, theology and social services” (IL 128). But to shape a Church with an Amazonian face “awaits a specific, missionary and prophetic pastoral ministry” (IL 132), with the parresia of the Spirit.

From a Church that welcomes diversity (IL 112, 124) we propose a more robust incarnation in all activities, expressions, languages (IL 107) that rejects a colonial tradition that is monocultural, clericalist, imposes itself, and fearlessly embraces diverse cultural expressions (IL 110, cf. EG 184, EG 40).

Bearing in mind that the Church has reshapen ministries throughout its history in response to socio-cultural changes, “Amazonia: New Paths” urges us to dialogue with Amazonian communities about the various ecclesial ministries and those of indigenous peoples for the service of life.

It is necessary to move from a pastoral visit to a pastoral presence, with native ministers, so that the Church may be a Church with an Amazonian face, in close dialogue with the cultures and religions of the peoples.

This symposium suggests that married men with Christian experience be ordained to the priestly ministry to serve the community from their profession and family life, and to celebrate the Eucharist, penance and the anointing of the sick in their community. It is requested that “instead of leaving communities without the Eucharist, the criteria for selecting and preparing ministers authorized to celebrate Eucharist should be changed” (IL 126c).

We appreciate celibacy as a charism at the service of the Church. At the same time, we are aware that its obligatory nature for priestly ministry is a law of the Latin Church. We also note that in the Latin Church itself, dispensations have been granted to ordain married men. Therefore, considering the needs of the Church in the Amazon, not only celibates, but also married men should be admitted to the priestly ministry.

From listening to the reality of the Amazon, the indispensable mission that women have is evident. Therefore, it urges the Church to “identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role that they play today in the Amazon Church.” (cf. IL 129a3). In this sense, we propose that their leadership be recognized, promoting various ministerial forms of exercising service and authority, and in particular, that reflection on the diaconate of women be taken up again in the perspective of Vatican II (cf. LG 29, AG 16 IL 129 c2). With persistent hope, we trust that synodal dissertations will contribute to promoting the dignity and equality of women in the public, private and ecclesial spheres (IL 146).

Regarding the relevance of the local Church for the universal Church, the Instrumentum laboris followsthe considerations of the EG: “We do not defend ‘a project of the few to the few, or of an enlightened minority’” (EG 239, IL 37). In dialogue let us weave together “an agreement to live together, a social and cultural pact” (ibid). For this pact, the Amazon represents a pars pro toto [part for the whole], a paradigm, a hope for the world” (IL 37). The great questions of humanity arise in the Amazon.  “The Amazon invites us to discover the educational task as an integral service for all humanity in view of an ‘ecological citizenship’” (LS, 211) (IL 96). The Amazon is a place of macro-relationship: everything is connected, all humanity is family with each other (cf. IL 20ff).

We conclude by recalling one of the final proposals of the Instrumentum Laboris: “Given the specific characteristics of the Amazon territory, the need for an Amazon episcopal structure to implement the Synod ought to be considered.” (IL 129 f 3).

 

“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water” (Mt 14:28).

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