In search of the Amazon

On the 2nd of this month, Pope Francis issued his much-anticipated letter, Querida Amazonia, the Beloved Amazon. 

The BBC ignored the thrust of the letter and reported only on one aspect which, it knew, would interest people who would be unmoved by the sweep of the letter. That aspect was the ordination of married men, a question which, Francis knew, would distract people from his message.

We are not searching for the Amazon as explorers from Europe once searched for the source of the Nile.  We are searching to understand the gift of this vast rain forest and river system that stretches across nine countries and whose health or otherwise has a vital effect on the people who live there and on us who live far away. It affects world climate.

The pope begins; ‘The beloved Amazon region stands before the world in all its splendour, drama and mystery’. Using vivid descriptions, arguments and poetry Francis shares with us his four dreams

  1. For an Amazon region that fights for the poor, the original people; this is a cry of the earth and a cry of the poor. He goes on to describe the indiscriminate and irresponsible plunder that affects the people.
  2. That the people of the Amazon can preserve their distinctive cultural riches
  3. And that the region preserves its overwhelming natural beauty, its superabundant life teeming in its forests and rivers
  4. And finally, that Christian communities in the region become capable of generous commitment in incarnating the faith in the Amazon region.

Pope Francis develops each of these points at length often, as mentioned, using the words of poets;

Many are the tress

where torture dwelt

and vast are the forests

purchased with a thousand deaths


The people, driven from their forests migrate to the cities where they find worse enslavement, subjugation and poverty. They are a dispensable obstacle to the exploitation of the Amazon and can be eliminated.  They are not human beings. Francis says we need to feel outraged, as Amos, ‘They turn justice into wormwood and throw uprightness to the ground’ (5:7-12).

The letter runs to many pages.  It is a celebration and a warning.  And it affects us in Africa because the Amazon is not just a river system in South America; it is a vital part of us.  Today we need a universal mind and a universal heart.  Otherwise, we will perish.

23 February 2020        Sunday 7 A

Lev 19:1…18              1 Cor. 3:16-23                         Matt 5:38-48

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