Pope Criticizes Cultural Discrimination in New Book of Interviews From Amazon Synod

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus noon prayer he delivers from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

In an interview book published Tuesday (Nov. 5), Pope Francis discussed his vision for a missionary church and criticized groups that discriminate against other cultures and view them as unworthy of receiving the gospel.

“There are circles and sectors that present themselves as ilustrados (enlightened) — they sequester the proclamation of the gospel through a distorted reasoning that divides the world between ‘civilized’ and ‘barbaric,’” Francis said in the interview.

“They consider a large part of the human family as a lower-class entity, unable to achieve decent levels in spiritual and intellectual life. On this basis, contempt can develop for people considered to be second rate,” he said, adding that “all this also emerged during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.”

The book, called “Without Him We Can Do Nothing,” was written by the Italian author and journalist Gianni Valente and based on interviews done during the Amazon synod. The book is being released to coincide with the close of Extraordinary Missionary Month, created by the pope for October 2019.

The summit of bishops on the Amazon shone a spotlight on the tensions that still exist within the Catholic Church around bringing the gospel to isolated cultures and how to adapt the message to resonate with those cultures.

During the synod, opposition toward the church incorporating or welcoming Amazon culture ranged from outrage to retaliation. The two-week gathering began with a flood of negative media coverage, including accusations of infanticide in some Amazon cultures and a prolific use of the term “savages” to describe the indigenous peoples.

In a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens at the opening of the synod, the pope was gifted wooden reliefs depicting an Amazonian fertility deity. A video of the event was widely circulated and the carvings were later described as “Our Lady of the Amazon” or “Pachamama” and became the impetus for a climax of hostilities during the synod.

On Oct. 21, a young man entered a church not far from the Vatican, stole the wooden carvings from a chapel and proceeded to dump them into Rome’s Tiber River. The act was recorded with a camera and published on social media.

On Monday, the young man released a video on YouTube confessing to the theft. “I am the guy who threw the Pachamama idols into the Tiber,” said the young man, speaking in English from his home in Austria and calling himself “Alexander” in the video.

“I was very upset,” he added.

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Source: Religion News Service