13 Feb 2020

Amazon exhortation relevant to Australia

The Southern Cross online

Amazon exhortation relevant to Australia

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) has much to offer the Catholic Church in Australia.

That’s the message from president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge who said “the Amazon is remote from us but the issues are not”.

The document, which follows last year’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, was released last month.

“All papal documents are highly anticipated, but this one holds a special interest not just for the peoples of Amazonia with all their needs, but for the Church around the world,” said Archbishop Coleridge.

He said two critical issues addressed during the Synod and in the Pope’s exhortation – indigenous culture and an integral understanding of ecology – must be front and centre in the Australian context as well.

“The Amazon has a unique place in the planet’s ecological footprint and its abuse in various forms is having and will continue to have an impact on the connection between humanity and the planet, our common home,” Archbishop Coleridge explained.

“Here in Australia we see, at times dramatically, the damage done by abuse of the natural world – not only to the environment but also to wildlife, to communities and countless individuals.

“The Church has a God-given duty to care for our common home, made clearer than ever in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’. Querida Amazonia builds on the papal teaching and applies it boldly in one particular situation.”

Pope Francis’ focus on indigenous cultures in the Amazon speaks strongly to the Australian context, Archbishop Coleridge said.

“It’s good that the Pope’s words on indigenous peoples come as we in this country consider the woeful lack of progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in key areas,” he said.

“The issues faced by many in the Amazon are not foreign to Australia, and the Holy Father’s words come as a challenge and encouragement to us too.

“Querida Amazonia will be a milestone in the Church’s reception of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and a spur to us in Australia as we continue the journey of the Plenary Council. For that we are greatly indebted not only to Pope Francis, but to all who made the Amazon Synod what it was.”

In Adelaide, Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said the Pope had “made us refocus on the main points of the Synod which was to note the concern about the suppression of indigenous peoples and their culture through exploitation and the urgent need to work for our common home, the planet Earth”.

“Issues like the ordination of married deacons or the ordination of women deacons are to be treated by the whole Church, not just a section of it,” he said.

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