The Church evangelizes by civilizing and civilizes by evangelizing.
In the Church’s two-thousand-year existence, the divine mandate to “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19) has always borne spiritual and temporal fruit. While spreading the Faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church gradually built up the true civilization: Christian civilization. The spiritual action of the Church was eminently civilizing wherever it made itself felt.
At the very moment when Christianity conquered Germany for the Church through Saint Boniface by bringing the Light of Christ, it also started to develop the lands of the virgin forests in the German territories of the Greco-Roman civilization. What Saint Boniface did in Germany, countless missionaries did in all Western nations. In the early centuries of the Middle Ages, they traveled through every corner of Europe as humble heralds of Truth.
A Mission That Baptized No One in Fifty-Three Years:
The Flawed Evangelization Model of the Pan-Amazonian Synod
This epic later spread to other parts of the Earth, especially to Latin America. Pope Pius XII defined this evangelization as “the greatest epic of the Faith after the foundation of the Church.” The missionary work of Spain and Portugal in the New World brought millions of souls and an entire continent to the fold of Christ, producing fruits of marked sanctity and giving life to a splendid civilization, a daughter of the European one.
Heaven confirmed this epic apostolate with the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531. Presenting herself as a mestizo woman adorned with indigenous features, the Mother of God blessed the religious-cultural work of the missionaries in the New World.
Nevertheless, both of the spiritual and temporal benefits of the Church’s pastoral care will be denied by the promoters of the Pan Amazon Synod, to be held in Rome this October under the aegis of Pope Francis. According to them, the Church must neither catechize nor civilize the Amazon Indians. Instead, She must learn the “true” faith and “good living” from the indigenous peoples.
According to the Synod’s promoters, the Indians do not need the dogmatic definitions and established rituals of Christianity. Instead, they retain the living memory of a primitive Revelation inherent in nature and accessible through “communion with nature and with the various spiritual forces.” Moreover, the Indians are the ones supposed to teach the Church about the “good living” that should replace today’s industrial and consumerist civilization. They call this an “ecological conversion.”
The Synod’s promoters are thus upending two thousand years of the pastoral work of the Church by abandoning the Magisterium of so many Popes who supported and blessed the evangelizing work in the Americas. They are also despising the work of numerous saints who spent their lives and sometimes even shed their blood to bring the Light of Christ to the most remote places. The radical promoters show no “mercy” to these workers of the harvest accusing them of “cultural imperialism.”
Fortunately, the faithful from the Amazon region have reacted strongly against this extremism. Indeed, some Brazilian bishops have denounced the reactions as a “witch hunt” that seeks to “demonize” the promoters of the Synod. However, there is no “hunt,” but simply the voice of the faithful that obstinately refuse to listen to their radical message.
Recently, the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute in Brazil and Tradición y Acción of Peru organized an “Amazon caravan,” in which young men traveled about the region collecting signatures for a petition against the radical agenda of the Synod’s promoters. Their success was beyond all expectations.
Will the Synod’s promoters listen to the true voice of the Amazon people this time? Or will they continue trying to impose ideological schemes of dubious origin and harmful consequences?