Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation will be a disappointing read for most issue-oriented Catholics. That’s too bad, because not only is there a lot of interesting stuff, Ignatian stuff, but there are particular adaptions for life outside of the Amazon region.
Remember the outline pre-Chapter One?
- (1) Introduction
- (2-4) The significance of this Exhortation
- (5-7) Dreams for the Amazon region
Pope Francis doesn’t place these first paragraphs under any title, not even “introduction.” (That designation on the first sentences is mine.) Maybe he considers it a brief manual or instruction booklet on how to read “QA.” If the post-synod document were a book, perhaps this text would be on the dust cover. (Of course, some Catholics would have wanted Cardinal Sarah or Michael Voris to write the dedication or foreword.)
The very first sentence raises the curtain:
The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all its splendor, its drama and its mystery.
And from here, the Holy Father suggests that one will not find theological or pastoral completeness. Unlike previous “words” from popes after synods, this is not a “last” one:
I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the larger concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process. (QA 2)
Thus Querida Amazonia is defined: a framework for reflection. It seems clear Pope Francis suggests the mission of Amazonia is ongoing. Let’s not expect final answers. It picks up on themes Pope Francis has found important in the past, so he toots them again.
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with his methods. Pope Francis sees himself as a pastor with an acknowledged set of interests and gifts. Think of him as an instrument in an orchestra. Maybe a clarinet.
Clarinets don’t play all the time, just like any other instrument. They pick up on themes others have played, maybe the strings. Or they state something from the inspiration of the composer, and hand it off to someone else. In other words, we aren’t dealing with solo sonatas from clarinets or whatever instrument(s) previous pontiffs saw themselves being or playing. Pope Francis sees himself as part of the ensemble. He has important contributions to make. Leave or take, as we wish.
I would like to officially present the Final Document, which sets forth the conclusions of the Synod, which profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately. I have preferred not to cite the Final Document in this Exhortation, because I would encourage everyone to read it in full. (QA 3)
A few things here. First, the final document is important. It would be a good thing to read it. Not just the section that make one clutch one’s pearls, shake one’s head at the misogyny, or seem to be passages that, when read backward, are some missive to a pagan river goddess.
The “entire … work” of the synod is affirmed:
May God grant that the entire Church be enriched and challenged by the work of the synodal assembly. May the pastors, consecrated men and women and lay faithful of the Amazon region strive to apply it, and may it inspire in some way every person of good will. (QA 4)
Very few of our readers, if any, are Amazonians. So if we approach this document with “good will,” we may find some important insight. Let it be so, for more than just the few who congregate here.