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As the Amazon burns and humanity commits slow mass suicide


The fires in the Amazon are a “true apocalypse”, according to a Brazilian archbishop who expects next month’s papal synod at the Vatican to strongly denounce the destruction of the rainforest.

The comments by Erwin Kräutler will put fresh pressure on the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, following criticism from G7 leaders last month over the surge of deforestation in the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink.

The archbishop’s words also highlight a widening division between the Catholic church and the Pentecostal movement. Pope Francis has championed a more harmonious relationship with the natural world for the sake of future generations, in contrast to the fast-growing new-world Pentecostalists who form the support base for the ramped-up resource exploitation advocated by Bolsonaro and Donald Trump.

The gathering of bishops would condemn all forms of Amazon destruction and advocate a new view of ecology based on Christian faith in God as the creator of a “common home”, Kräutler said in an email exchange with the Guardian. Although retired as a bishop of Xingu, he is one of 18 members of the preparatory council appointed by Francis ahead of next month’s papal synod on the Amazon.

Following the meeting, Francis is expected to reinforce this message with an “apostolic exhortation”. It is likely to build on his influential 180-page encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, published four years ago, which called for concrete steps to tackle the environmental crisis.

Preparations for an Amazon synod have been under way since 2016, but the issue has become more urgent in recent months due to fires, threats and a hostile government, Kräutler said.

A primary goal of the synod is to increase the ability of the Catholic church to evangelise in the Amazon and – although unstated – to counter the rise of Pentecostalism, which tends to support resource exploitation and has made inroads among indigenous and riverine communities. But bishops have been hamstrung by the difficulty of finding priests willing to work in the remote region.

One of the more radical ideas in a preparatory document for the synod, Instrumentum Laboris, is to allow older married men to be ordained – a move which would end a centuries-old requirement that priests are celibate.

Francis has previously said he would be open to allowing married men to be ordained in areas where there is a scarcity of priests, but the idea is highly controversial among Vatican conservatives, with cardinals having described it as “heretical” and “apostasy”.

Instrumentum Laboris also laments the crisis in the Amazon, which it attributes to “secularisation, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money”.

“Today the Amazon is wounded, its beauty deformed, a place of pain and violence,” it continues. “The manifold destruction of human and environmental life, the diseases and pollution of rivers and lands, the felling and burning of trees, the massive loss of biodiversity, the disappearance of species (more than 1m of the 8m animals and plants are at risk), constitute a brutal reality that challenges us all.

“Violence, chaos and corruption are rampant. The territory has become a space of discord and of extermination of peoples, cultures and generations.”


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