Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
I wish all of you a meaningful and fruitful season of Lent.May this Holy Season of Lent lead us closer to the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I invite all my priests, religious and people of God to reflect on “Beloved Amazon” (Querida Amazonia) throughout this Lenten season. This document traces new paths of evangelization, care for the environment and the indigenous people. Pope Francis hopes for a new missionary thrust and encourages the role of the laity within the ecclesial community. Everything that the Church has to offer must become incarnate in a distinctive way in each part of the world.
The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all splendour, drama and mystery. In this Exhortation, Pope wishes to offer his own response to this process of dialogue and discernment. Pope is addressing the present Exhortation to the whole world. He is awakening our affection and concern for the land of Amazon which is also “ours”. Pope Francis expresses his four dreams through this exhortation.
The first dream is a “social” one. Pope says “I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced.” Here he comes down firmly on the side of the indigenous people. He says the Amazon region “is facing an ecological disaster” and insists that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment.” He points to the “injustice and crime” that is due to “the colonizing interests that have continued to expand—legally and illegally—the timber and mining industries, and have expelled or marginalized the indigenous peoples, the river people and those of African descent” and recently led to “migrations of the indigenous peoples to the outskirts of the cities” where “they find the worst forms of enslavement, subjection and poverty” as well as “xenophobia, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”
Pope’s second dream is a “cultural” dream in which he says, “I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.” Pope notes that “a consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today’s globalized economy, has a leveling effect on cultures” and this especially affects the young. He urges the region’s young indigenous people to “take charge of their roots.” Faced with “a colonizing invasion of means of mass communication,” he affirms the need to promote for the original peoples “alternative forms of communication based on their own languages and cultures.”
Pope’s third dream is “ecological.” He says, “I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the super abundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.” He recalls that “in a cultural reality like the Amazon region, where there is such a close relationship between human beings and nature, daily existence is always cosmic. Setting others free from their forms of bondage surely involves caring for the environment and defending it but, even more, helping the human heart to be open with trust to the God who not only has created all that exists but has also given us himself in Jesus Christ.” In a forceful paragraph (No. 48), Francis states that “the equilibrium of our planet also depends on the health of the Amazon region,” but aware of the threat to the region from “the conquest and exploitation of resources,” he declares that “the interest of a few powerful industries should not be considered more important than the good of the Amazon region and of humanity as a whole.”
The fourth dream is an “ecclesial” dream. Pope Francis reveals, “I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region, and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features.” Addressing the inculturation of the liturgy, Francis emphasizes that the Eucharist “joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation.” In this sense, he asserts, “encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature,” rather “it means that we can take up into the liturgy many elements proper to the experience of indigenous people in their contact with nature, and respect native forms of expression in song, dance, rituals, gestures and symbols.” He recalls that “the Second Vatican Council called for this effort to inculturate the liturgy among indigenous people; over fifty years have passed and we still have far to go along these lines.” He recalls that “the Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary” and says “women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother.”
Pope Francis concludes Querida Amazonia with a prayer to the Mother of the Amazon Region. “Mother, look upon the poor of the Amazon region”, he prays, “for their home is being destroyed by petty interests…. Touch the hearts of the powerful, for, even though we sense that the hour is late, you call us to save what is still alive.” Our Pope has offered very good rhythm of reflection to the season of lent this year through this Exhortation “Beloved Amazon” Let us reflect upon those words of Pope about the nature and the protectors of nature who are indigenous of the soil.
I would also like to highlight the life of St. Joseph who is the suitable role model for this season and the saint of the month of March. St. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safe-keeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, and he can make truly wise decisions. In him, we learn how to respond to God’s call readily and willingly. I also wish a Happy Feast to all the parishes who celebrate the patronage of St Joseph. Let us place ourselves at the feet of St. Joseph so that we may benefit the blessings of holy Lent.
May this season of repentance help us to enjoy the purification and blessings of the Lord.
Yours in Christ Jesus
+ Most Rev. Dr. P. Soundararaju, SDB.,
Bishop of Vellore