WelCom September 2019:
The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region will meet in Rome from 6 to 27 October 2019. Pope Francis announced on 15 October 2017 that it would work ‘to identify new paths for the evangelisation of God’s people in that region’, specifically the indigenous peoples who are experiencing the destruction and exploitation of their natural environment and live ‘often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also for the cause of the crisis of the Amazonian forest, lung of fundamental importance for our planet.’
The obstacles to evangelisation include difficult terrain making it hard to reach some indigenous people, the large variety of languages spoken, and the resistance of landowners and business interests. The Amazon basin, according to a Vatican report, covers some 6,000,000 km2, with a population of 2.8 million divided among 400 tribes that ‘speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families’.
When the Pope first visited the Amazonian territory (in Peru) on January 19, 2018, he said, ‘The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present. The Amazon is being disputed on various fronts’.
The Synod defines the region to include all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, and Surinam, all countries where most of the population is Catholic. The region is an important source of oxygen for the whole earth, with more than a third of the world’s primary forest reserves and is one of the largest biodiversity reserves on the planet, with 20 per cent of unfrozen freshwater.