February 13, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – People in the Amazon region had no interest at all for the Amazon synod and said, on the contrary, they were used by it “to attack the Catholic faith.”
Father Ignacio Maria Doñoro should know. He founded a home for youngsters – boys and adolescents – from the margins of society. In the Peruvian Amazon, he said in a recent interview with Infovaticana, a major Spanish-speaking Catholic website, what the poor people are thirsting for is God.
Ignacio Maria Doñoro is a former “Padre” – as army chaplains are known – who moved from assisting victims of ETA terrorism to various international missions. He has been in the Peruvian Amazon for the last 10 years as a part of the Prelature of Moyobamba. He called his institution “Hogar Nazaret” – “Home of Nazareth” which takes in high-risk and socially-excluded children and teenagers. The website of Hogar Nazaret is here.
In the interview, Fr. Doñoro is very clear about what the Amazon needs: dedicated, celibate priests who have totally given their lives to God and who are “sanctifiers of the people.” “After God, priests are everything,” he told Infovaticana, quoting Saint Jean-Marie Vianney.
Asked about the Pachamama veneration in Rome, he told the interviewer that the boys of Hogar Nazaret so much love Our Lord and the Virgin Mary that they would surely have reacted like “the young people” who entered into Santa Maria in Traspontina – Alexander Tschugguel and another person – and threw the “demonic statuettes” in the Tiber.
Doñoro added that he himself “wept” when he saw them “in the physical heart of our Holy Mother Church, above the holy remains of St. Peter and St. Paul.”
Below is a translation of the part of Infovaticano journalist Fernando Beltrán’s talk with Fr. Doñoro that directly concerns his work in the Amazon. It took place and was online before the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonía,” but remains very timely.
Fernando Beltrán: What are the greatest difficulties facing evangelization in the Amazon?
Ignacio Maria Doñoro: Difficulties? There are none. To be here talking to them about God, whom they have never heard of, is marvelous. These people are truly hungry for God. They are moved. In El Salvador, something very funny happened to me. I said a Mass that lasted 45 minutes. The people were very angry and asked me how it could have lasted so little; they had not come for hours and hours walking to hear such a short Mass. They said they wanted to delight more in the Lord and that they wanted to know more. And that I should tell them more, that the Mass should last longer. The next Mass took me an hour and a half, and to them it also seemed very short …
The people here are hungry for God. That is why the presence of God here is very great. His words resound in the Amazon with great force.
Here you find communities that only have Mass once a year and are happy to be able to welcome the priest. They love priests very much! You go down the street and everyone greets you, they ask for your blessing …
I usually carry several rosaries in my pocket and hand them out throughout the day. That a priest should give them a rosary is for them a caress from God to their heart. What these people want and need are holy priests, devoted in body and soul.
FB: What were the Catholics’ expectations during the recent Synod? Did the work and the final document reflect the desires of the Amazonian people in your opinion?
IMD: Here in the Amazon Forest, the Synod, which in theory established a dialogue on the problems of the Amazon, had no significance at all. No one was talking about the Synod. No one. They didn’t hear about it. The people here are very poor. It is also true that, like most, they have television, but what they watch is soap opera. They don’t read newspapers or get information.
In my opinion, it does not make much sense to have made a synod only for the Amazon and I am concerned that certain issues have been raised, and also about the way they have been raised, because it is strange, but these are things that have nothing to do with the reality of the Amazon.
In the midst of some of the controversies that have arisen around the Synod, some words of Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, have given me personally a lot of light: “I fear that some Westerners are using this assembly to advance their plans. I am thinking in particular of the ordination of married men, the creation of women’s ministries and the jurisdiction of the laity. These points touch on the structure of the Universal Church. To take advantage of them to introduce ideological plans would be an unworthy manipulation, a dishonest deception and an insult to God who guides his Church and entrusts her with his plan of salvation. Furthermore, I was surprised and outraged that the spiritual distress of the poor in the Amazon was used as an excuse to support typical projects of bourgeois and worldly Christianity. It is abominable.”
I, who have been in this blessed land for 10 years now, first in Madre de Dios, then in Moyobamba, what I see every day is that the simple people are thirsty for God, they thirst for truth. Christ is the only Truth. They may be poor, but they are not fools, and they like the truth. … That is what they need. That’s their greatest desire.
FB: In Europe, the focus has been on “the Pachamama.” To what extent is this figure related with the Amazon? What did you think when you saw the images of the strange ceremony in the Vatican gardens where one of these figures was worshipped in front of the Pope?
IMD: I remember with emotion, the moment before the end of the Synod, when they broadcast a video of some young people who entered the church of the Carmelites, near the Vatican, where the demonic statuettes were exposed on an altar, and threw them into the river Tiber. … I cannot help thinking that my children of the Nazareth Home, who love Jesus and the Virgin Mary very much, would have felt just as badly as those young people, which would surely have led them to act in a similar way.
Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican’s editorial director, called those who committed these acts “vandals” and “new iconoclasts.” He said that “this was not idolatry, but a symbol of fertility, of the earth and the sacredness of life.” His arguments, so weak and supported by such limited concepts, showed the fragility of his reasoning and left a very bitter taste.
I can affirm that I saw these idols for the first time in the images that came to us from Rome. I wept when I saw them in the physical heart of our Holy Mother Church, above the holy remains of St. Peter and St. Paul. I was scandalized and, like me, the event scandalized millions of Catholics all over the world.
I think that somehow, the indigenous people of the Amazon Forest were utilized to attack the Catholic faith. The last of the earth, the smallest, the weakest, were used to show, moreover, a different reality from the one we experience here. I repeat that I have not seen the Pachamama or these other idols here and I have been here for 10 years now.
The Catholics of this region with whom I have spoken felt bad when they saw these things that did not represent them or mean anything to them. They feel, as many do, a need to repair the Heart of Jesus. The only Queen of the Amazon is the Mother of God. It is precisely this region of the Amazon that is named “Mother of God” in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For a Christian – and that also means, of course, a Christian of the Amazon – there is no other God or savior but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born from the virginal womb of Mary.
FB: During the last few weeks the focus has been on Pope Francis’ next post-synodal exhortation, which will gather the fruits of the synod. There are many expectations in this exhortation. Some have the hope – reflected in the final document of the Synod – that the Pope will allow the ordination of married people for special pastoral needs in those regions. How would you feel about such a measure? In your experience there, do you see the need for such a decision? Would that argument not be applicable to other places in the world with a lack of priests?
IMD: I believe that the Amazon, like the Church throughout the world, needs holy and learned priests, priests who are humble and joyful. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that, on one occasion, when she was speaking with a priest, he said, “Mother, for me Jesus is everything. I have no time or space left for other affections.” And Mother Teresa understood that if that priest was bringing so many souls to God, it was because he was united to Him.
I think that today, more than ever, in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world, what is needed is not the ordination of married people, but priests in love with Christ.
That is the priest’s job: to bear witness of the merciful and unconditional love of Jesus Christ and to bring souls to God. And all this after years of study, prayer and discernment, after which he is ordained to give glory to God and serve others.
The priest is the sanctifier of God’s people. He is a sanctifier through the sacraments he administers: above all, Baptism, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation. The holy Curé d’Ars, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, patron saint of priests, said something that may be shocking because the words he uses are strong, but that contains a great truth: “After God, the priest is everything! Leave a parish 20 years without a priest and they will worship the beasts. When you want to destroy religion, you start by attacking the priest, because where there is no priest, there is no sacrifice, and where there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”
I think that today, more than ever, in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world, what is needed is not the ordination of married people, but priests in love with Christ, with an undivided heart that they do not wish to share with anyone else but Him.
God chooses his priests, who consecrate themselves to him in the fullness of their life, in an unconditional “fiat.” Christ was celibate and he asks us priests to espouse him and give him the gift of our virginity, just as he wanted to give it to the Father for love of us. It is a wonder!
Bishop Rafael Escudero, who was a Synodal Father at the Synod on the Amazon, wanted to warn of the dangers that the ordination of viri probati could entail: “Old married men who are ordained would mean a kind of second class priesthood and the identity of the Catholic priest would be reduced to a mere sacramental function. The priest, from being a pastor of the community, a source of counsel, a teacher of Christian life, a close presence of Christ, would become a mere functionary of the Mass.”
I think that those dangers of which Bishop Escudero warns are real. The mission entrusted by Christ to the priest is so great – and I quote again the Curé of Ars – that “if he were to become aware of it, he would die. God obeys him: he says two words and Our Lord descends from heaven. The joy of saying Mass will not be understood except in heaven.” All of us priests have read and meditated on these beautiful words hundreds of times. God has trusted us so much that he has placed himself in our humble hands. We cannot fail him. We cannot lower our ministry or divide it into first and second class priests. God deserves everything.
FB: One of the issues that carried most weight at the October synod was ecology. How do you see that problem? Do you see it as a priority? What do you think should be the priorities for the Church in the Amazon?
IMD: I am going to answer the first question from the reality I know. I have taught my children at Hogar Nazareth to respect plants. The exuberance in the forest is impressive. Nature is so beautiful that it speaks to us of God and we must respect it. That is why taking care of our common home is important.
But here in the Amazon, along with a tremendous depredation of nature, there is a depredation of the human being. People are trafficked, and we come to the point of considering that the other is one thing, that the woman is a possession of the man. … That is why I would have liked the Synod to have raised these kinds of questions and spoken, among other things, about the dignity of women, the dignity of mothers and how to solve many of their problems. This seems to me to be a priority issue.
Earlier, I quoted Mother Teresa, who is one of the great figures of human history, and who has much to do with the history of the Nazareth Home. She insisted a lot on the defense of unborn children. She said that something out of the ordinary happened when the Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and the unborn child jumped for joy in the presence of Jesus. “It is very strange that God would use an unborn child to proclaim the coming of Christ. We know the things that are happening to unborn children – how their own mothers end their lives! Abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace, of love, of truth today. The unborn children are the poorest of the poor. They are so close to God! I always beg the doctors in the hospitals of India never to kill a child. If no one wants it, I will keep it.”
These words of Mother Teresa move me to action. Many women are deceived here. All too often I meet girls who are terrified because they think they have to have an abortion. The crime of abortion is terrible and we are always struggling to get the Home for Unborn Children going, despite the lack of financial and human means to help these young women have their children, and regain joy through love. None of them have ever regretted bringing their child into the world.
Another issue that I consider fundamental is to make a clear and firm commitment to the truth. For the truth in morals, for the truth in God’s revelation (without sweeteners), for the truth in the great debates that are opening up, to face them with courage. I refer, for example, to gender ideology, to the value of human life before its conception and to the end of its days, etc.
At the same time, and together with these great themes, it is fundamental to seek supernatural means, such as prayer, Holy Mass, adoration, personal encounter with the Living Christ in the Eucharist, devotion to the Virgin Mary … I believe that this is what we have to do, here in the Amazon and in the rest of the world, because the Church is universal.
Finally, I would like to give voice to the poor. Let us not forget the neediest. The people of the Amazon, precisely because they are the poorest, deserve the best. They deserve priests who are totally dedicated to their ministry, who become one with Christ, whose heart is undivided. That is what I believe is needed. It is not because there is a need for priests that I am going to look for second-rate priests. … Besides, a formation is needed. Here the formation of priests lasts a minimum of 10 years, much longer than in Spain. In my Prelature, an immense effort is being made for the seminary. I think it’s a good bet. That requires forming native priests, and that takes many years, much effort, much sacrifice, much money, and much prayer. And all this is what is being done in Moyobamba, here, in the Amazon, thanks to God and to the generous dedication of many people.