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ROME, June 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews)— LifeSiteNews has obtained the list of participants in a private and unannounced Pre-Amazonian Synod “study-meeting,” held at a gated hilltop convent on the outskirts of Rome this week.

A photograph of the full list of 30 participants, taken by this correspondent (see below), confirms that the three-day meeting included key German prelates and Vatican officials, some of whom support a relaxing in priestly celibacy in the Latin Church, and the idea of women priests. 


The list of participants, posted in the “Casa Nostra Signora Madre della Misericordia” where the meeting was held, includes the following names: 

List of participants in the REPAM and Synod on the Amazon meeting

Cardinal Claudio Hummes OFM, general relator of Amazonian Synod, President of REPAM (Germany-Brazil)

Cardinal Pedro Barreto SJ, archbishop of Huancayo, vice president of REPAM (Peru)

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general, Synod of Bishops (Italy)

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and close theological adviser to Pope Francis (Germany)

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, close theological adviser to Pope Francis (absent) (Austria)

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, C.PP.S., emeritus of Xingu, Parà, member of pre-synodal council (Austria/Brazil)

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, bishop of Essen, Germany, president of Adveniat, episcopal humanitarian agency for Latin America (Germany)

Father Michael Czerny SJ, co-secretary of Amazonian Synod (Canada)

Patricia Gualinga, human rights activist of the Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku indigenous community (Ecuador)

Sr. Alba Teresa Cediel Castillo, general councilor of the Missionary Congregation Mother Laura, expert on ethics and pedagogy (Colombia).

Sr. Liliana Franco, of the Company of Mary Congregation, president of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (Colombia). 

Fr. Paolo Suess, liberation theology expert (Germany-Brazil)

Fr. Victor Codina SJ, theologian (Spain-Bolivia)

Fr. Fernando Roca Alcazar SJ, social anthropologists and ethnobotanist, Pontifical Catholic University (Peru) 

Fr. Pedro Hughes, Columban missionary, coordinator of REPAM (Ireland)

Fr. Justino Sarmento Rezende, Salesian priest of the indigenous Tuyuca people (Brazil)

Fr. Felipe Jaled Ali Modad Aguilar, SJ, Rector Parroquia, Bachajón Mission (Mexico)

Fr. Agenor Brighenti, theologian, University of Louvain (Belgium)

Fr. Paolo Garuti OP, professor of biblical theology, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Italy) 

Fr. Hubert Wolf, professor of theology and Church history, University of Munster (Germany)

Prof. Myriam Wijlens, University of Erfurt (Germany)

Prof. Peter Szabó, head of Institute of Canon Law, University of Budapest (Hungary) 

Prof. Serena Noceti, professor of systemic theology, Higher Institute of Religious Studies, Florence (Italy)

Msgr. Josef Sayer, theologian, former chief executive, Misereor (Germany)

Dina Guerra, program manager, Porticus, part of the heterodox Brenninkmeijer philanthropic organization helping to foster “human dignity, social justice and sustainability” (Germany-Netherlands).

Mauricio López, executive secretary of REPAM (Ecuador).

Bishop Eugenio Cotter, vicar apostolic of Pando, titular bishop of Tibiuca (Bolivia), member of pre-synodal council.

Romina Gallegos, national coordinator, REPAM (Ecuador)

Fr. Carlos Galli STD, close theological adviser to Pope Francis (Argentina)

Miguel Cruz Moreno, indigenous peoples activist (Mexico) 

Unannounced meeting

News of the unannounced meeting, along with a partial list of participants, 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. 

In remarks to the Register, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the gathering was a “study meeting” of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM).

REPAM (The Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) 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.”

Gisotti also told the Register that participants included “ecclesial authorities, experts and representatives of the territory in view of the Synod on the Amazon,” but added that he was unable to give any details. 

“It’s a study meeting, not for the public,” he said, noting: “There will be others before the synod.” In subsequent comments to LifeSite, the Vatican spokesman confirmed that the meeting concluded on June 26.

Not all pre-synod “study meetings” have been so private, however. In fact, a study seminar held in Rome on Feb. 25-27, 2019 — on the tail end of the Vatican abuse summit — was both pre-announced and widely publicized. It also drew controversy after one of its featured speakers suggested that the Vatican change the matter of the Eucharist from wheaten hosts to yuca in the Amazon.

Key participants

Key prelates among the participants are not known for their undying orthodoxy. 

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the general relator of the synod and president of REPAM, has for many years advocated a change in the discipline of priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite. A friend the Holy Father, Hummes gave him the inspiration to choose the name Francis.

Walter Kasper, a close theological adviser to Pope Francis, recently said that if the conferences of the Amazon region agreed among themselves that married men could be priests, and proposed such a change to the Pope, the Holy Father “would in principle probably accept it.”

In 2017, the French Catholic daily La Croix reported that “Cardinal Walter Kasper had told German media he believes Pope Francis favors ordaining married men of proven virtue (known by the Latin term, viri probati), but is also sure the pope wants to leave the decision up to individual bishops’ conferences.”

Notable among the attendees was Austrian Bishop Emeritus Erwin Kräutler of the Territorial Prelature of Xingu in Brazil, whom Pope Francis appointed as an expert consultant to the synod. 

In his June 25 report, Edward Pentin noted that Kräutler has “argued for ordaining married men in the Amazonand voiced his support for women priests. He is thought to have helped write the synod’s controversial working document published last week.” 

Also included was Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, Germany, head of the German bishops’ Latin America commission, which through its aid organization Adveniat provides significant financial and pastoral support to Latin America. 

Last month, Bishop Overbeck said the synod will lead the Church to a “point of no return,” and, thereafter, “nothing will be the same as it was,” Pentin noted. 

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was unable to attend the meeting due to surgery for prostate cancer, his press spokesman, Michael Prüller told the Register. 

Growing concerns

At the presentation of the synod’s controversial working document (Instrumentum laboris) on Monday, June 17, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops (who participated in the private meeting) said the upcoming Synod, titled “Amazonia, New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” will be a time of “pastoral reflection, open to recognizing diversity” and “listening to the Amazonian reality with all its cultural and ecclesial facets.”  

Yet the working document, which will form the basis of discussion at the synod, has raised serious concerns over what many see as an overemphasis on listening to the Amazonian “voice,” a serving of a neo-pagan agenda, and a promotion of “so-called indigenist and ecological theology.”

The working document has also been criticized for calling for an adaption of the “Eucharistic rite” to Amazonian culture, suggesting the ordaining “elders” with families to the priesthood, and proposing that an “official ministry” be conferred on women. 

It further suggests that it’s time to reconsider “the notion that the exercise of jurisdiction (power of government) must be linked in all areas (sacramental, judicial, administrative) and in a permanent way to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”

While the content of this week’s private gathering in Rome is unknown, papal biographer Austen Ivereigh said one of the purposes of the meeting was to prepare for the synod “a briefing on theological implications of ordaining married elders.” 

In his June 25 article, Pentin also noted that the “strong input” from German-speaking prelates and theologians “has led concerned observers to believe that the synod is a means of them imposing and implementing their own ideological agenda.” He noted that some find this “especially mystifying” given the “less-than-robust state of the Catholic Church in German-speaking countries and other Churches in Europe.”

A source close to the Church in Germany told the Register that the Amazonian Synod is “not about rethinking things” as some have wished to portray it, but largely German theologians “activating old material.” The organizers, he said, “are getting old folders out of the cupboard and trying to implement the 1970s thinking within them.”  

In comments of a similar vein, Julio Lordo, a Peruvian journalist and author of “Liberation Theology, a life jacket for the poor made of lead” [Teologia della liberazione. Un salvagente di piombo per i poveri (Cantagalli, 2014)] told LifeSite last week that the “untold” backstory of the Amazon Synod is that it’s been decades in the making and is designed to “change the whole Church” according to “so-called indigenist and ecological theology.”

“It is a whole revamping of the Church from an ‘Amazonian’ point of view, which is nothing else than the culmination of liberation theology.”