As part of the preparations for the next Pan-Amazon Synod, Pope Francis received on May 27 the Indian chief Raoni Metukire of the Kayapó Amazon tribe in a private audience at Santa Marta in the Vatican.
For decades, Raoni has been fighting to preserve indigenous peoples and the Amazon rainforest. Over the years, he has counted on the support of important Western political leaders such as King Juan Carlos of Spain and French presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac. Well-known representatives of the avant-garde culture, like the singer Sting, have also taken up his cause. He is featured in the film, Raoni: The Fight for the Amazon, directed by Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.
While many concerns about the Amazon might be shared, Raoni’s struggle has always been dominated by those who hold ultra-radical ecological viewpoints. Such activists challenge the very foundation of a society based on development. They see the primitive Amazonian tribes as a model of “eco-sustainability.” Thus, they oppose any use of the Amazon that implies progress and reject the presence of whites in this area of the planet.
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Such attitudes are reflected in the numerous comments about the audience the Pope granted the indigenous leader. A well-known Spanish blog recalled that during the meeting Francis repeatedly asked “forgiveness” for the evangelizing and civilizing work of the Church in past centuries. Another blog highlighted the Pope’s closeness to the Amazon Indians, “whom he admires for their ability to live in harmony with creation, without polluting or destroying. According to Francis, the Indians are guardians of ancestral knowledge, necessary for an integral ecology.”
Not to be outdone, Marina Silva, a former militant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Brazil and ex-presidential candidate for the extreme left, commented via Twitter: “The scene of the embrace between Chief Raoni and Pope Francis is moving. The Pope’s audience with the Kayapó Chief is a strong gesture by the leader of the Catholic Church.”
All this attention to the plight of the Indians is moving the “indigenist” left to raise the bar of expectations for the coming Pan-Amazon Synod in October. In preparation for the Synod, many old characters from Marxist-inspired liberation theology are lining up to participate.
One such figure is the most Rev. Erwin Krautler, bishop emeritus of Xingu, Brazil, who will also be its rapporteur. Originally from Austria, Bishop Krautler was one of Francis’s main consultants for the Encyclical Laudato Si’, which is the doctrinal foundation of the Pan-Amazon Synod.
Here is how he summarizes the objectives sought by the indigenist current participating in the upcoming Synod:
- Fostering an appreciation for “lay ministries”
- Allowing women deacons
- Finding “alternative rituals” for the Eucharist
- Establishing a new model of “priesthood” not reserved for men
- Promoting an “enculturation” of the Sacraments, i.e., reinterpreting them from an indigenous perspective
- Reinvigorating the grassroots Basic Christian Communities that served as the “militant arm” of liberation theology
- Rejecting any industrial development of the Amazon region
- Internationalizing the Amazon
If the Synod approves these goals of the indigenous activists, one might well ask: How much of the Catholic Church will remain?