Abellanosa: Amazon Synod and 500 years

Fringes and frontiers

MUCH has been said and reported about the Amazon Synod in Rome. Depending on one's leaning and affiliation, the event may be interpreted either as a signal of ecclesial progression or regression. It is thus important to pay close attention to details and be more discerning when reading reports. Banner headlines (about the Synod) may be true but not necessarily truthful.

The issue for example on the admission of married priests has created some unnecessary fuzz. That there is a proposal to "admit" married men is true. Truth to tell, however, the Church's law on admission of married men has not been an absolute rule. Admission of married men is also not the same with making celibacy optional. And especially among religious congregations, the vow is chastity and not celibacy. Religious vows also have much deeper historical roots and have more deep spiritual basis than mere canonical prescription.

I, therefore, find the report of a certain foreign media laden with malice when it says, that after the Synod, it is the recommendation of the bishops to "loosen the celibacy requirement." The same is true with admitting women to the diaconate. Likely it has a long way to go. But media is reporting it like as if the world is about to end and that the prophecies were real that a Jesuit pope would be a sign of the Second Coming. All in all, media reports have missed the aim of the Amazon Synod. It's not as if Pope Francis is becoming Protestant.

What reports have failed to focus are the more important reasons why the pope convened the Synod, which is: "to identify new paths for the evangelization of God's people in that region." According to data, there are increasing concerns on ecology, justice, and spiritual needs in a big region covering 7.9 million square kilometers comprising nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, and French Guyana.

Old strategies may be time tested but there are other options by and through which the Church may become more felt and present in the lives of the people. There are those who, in their desperate defense of the more conservative position on celibacy, would say that the issue is not the shortage of priests but the distribution. But let's be realistic. The priests and seminarians who usually use this argument are those who would even refuse assignments to barrios or far flung areas.

Serving the poor and the marginalized is always easier said than done. Let's make this statement more sophisticated: "the poor are beautiful objects of theologizing, they make the promise of God's reign more romantic." At the end of the day, the ones who are more ready to serve the poor are those who belong to their kind. Serving the poor after all requires more than just outreach and philanthropy.

The Philippines is getting near 2021. As it prepares in its commemoration of the 500th year of Christianity's arrival in the country, some very important questions should be answered. Other than appreciating our heritage, how has the Church especially its leaders changed the lives of the people they serve? If there are enduring issues in the Church since the time of the Spaniards, what are those?

More painful truths about the Church should be confronted by its leaders and members come 2021. Hopefully, our celebration of the "500" won't just be about tourism and dancing. Hopefully, we will not reach a point of having our own Synod, considering proposals to ordain married men due to vocation crises.


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