March 6, 2019 — We talked about Green Lent and Vegan Lent this week. These issues are far from being pure abstractions, nor even liturgical coquetry: in the Amazon region and even more so in Brazil, it is a matter of life and death, in view of the repeated attacks on the tropical forest – the lungs of the planet – and the (indigenous) peoples who inhabit it, by mining, gas and forestry companies, as well as by the livestock farmers’ lobby.
During his official visit to Chile and Peru last year, Pope Francis defended the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, threatened on all sides by "the strong pressure of major economic interests that covet oil, gas, timber, gold and agro-industrial monocultures". Hence the idea of dedicating the next Synod to this region, which is vital for the future of Catholicism but also and above all for the planet. Several prelates from this region – including Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno, SJ, Archbishop of Huancayo (Jesuit) in the Peruvian Amazon – have championed the rights of indigenous peoples and the protection of the environment.
Since then, the Brazilians have brought the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to power. Nostalgic for the era of the military junta, Bolsonaro was elected by the lobby of large landowners and cattle breeders, who covet the lands of the Amazon. Shortly after his election, he promised to hand over vast areas of the Amazonian forest, including the territories of indigenous peoples, to herders and logging companies.
A frontal collision therefore seems to be emerging between the Catholic Church and the Brazilian State. President Bolsonaro is already waging war in advance of the Synod on the Amazon, accusing the Catholic Church of putting forward a "leftist agenda".