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Thieves steal statues used at synod prayer, throw them in the river

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Two men entered a Catholic Church near the Vatican early Oct. 21 and stole copies of a statue of a pregnant woman that had been a centerpiece of several prayer services connected to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

In a video shared with bloggers and Catholic news outlets that have complained about the statue being a pagan symbol, the two men set the statues on the railing of a bridge over the Tiber River and knocked them in, watching them float away.

The statues of a kneeling pregnant woman "represented life, fertility, Mother Earth," Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, told reporters Oct. 21.

Stealing the statues and throwing them in the river, he said, "is a gesture that contradicts the spirit of dialogue."

"I don't know what else to say except that it was a theft and perhaps that speaks for itself," Ruffini said. Police are investigating the theft.

The statues had been kept in several side chapels at the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina where prayer services connected to the synod have been held daily since the gathering began in early October.

The statue was present Oct. 4 when Pope Francis planted a tree in the Vatican gardens and entrusted the synod to St. Francis of Assisi. It was used again Oct. 7 during a prayer and procession from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Vatican synod hall and early Oct. 19 as synod members and supports prayed the Stations of the Cross on the main street leading to St. Peter's Square.

The video of the theft and news about it spread quickly on Twitter. Taylor Marshall, author of the book "Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within" and a frequent critic of the use of the statue, told Twitter followers "with great joy" that the images had been tossed into the river "as an act of obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ & in reparation to his Sacred Heart wounded by sin."

Others, however, expressed disgust at the theft and destruction of statues.

Catholic author Dawn Eden Goldstein tweeted, "A sick crime. The statue was in the church to represent life given us by God. Catholic churches are full of allegorical images -- pelicans, eagles, fish, human representations of virtues. Yet when Amazonian Catholics designate an image to represent their faith, they are 'pagan.'"

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Explaining Scripture, Venezuelan priest becomes social media sensation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Manuel Rueda

By Manuel Rueda

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) -- Understanding the Bible can be challenging, but Catholics in Venezuela are becoming more familiar with Scripture through the work of a tech-savvy friar.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Luis Antonio Salazar is breaking with traditional ways of preaching and bringing the Gospel to thousands of cellphone users each week through an Instagram video series called "Vivir el Evangelio," or "Living the Gospel."

In the one-minute videos, the robed priest waves his arms and points his finger to the sky as he discusses key passages of the New Testament with the help of electronic music and special effects.

Father Salazar, 34, described himself as a "Catholic influencer." He started posting videos to Instagram in 2018, after a 19-year-old member of his parish convinced him it would be a good idea and offered to help with the editing and special effects.

Each video gets thousands of views and hundreds of comments. And in a year, Salazar's account -- @Flas7.0 -- has grown from 5,000 to more than 120,000 followers.

"The motive behind this is to help people understand the Gospel" said Father Salazar, who celebrates Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Chiquinquira Church, the largest church in Venezuela's capital. "I want to take those stories that happened 2,000 years ago with the pharisees, the scribes and the rest of the characters in the Bible and show people what they teach us about being good Christians."

Parishioners credit the videos and Father Salazar's energetic personality with bringing more people to the pews as Sunday Mass is now attended by hundreds of people.

But Father Salazar told Catholic News Service the videos also have helped him to connect with young Catholics in other cities and even in other Spanish-speaking countries, forming a "digital parish" to which he tries to tend daily.

"Recently a cathecist who I didn't know reached out to me asking how to teach her pupils about Moses, Abraham and the alliance of the people of Israel with God," he said.

Father Salazar said he also has been messaged by people with problems such as depression and tries to provide them with prayers and guidance.

"I am approached with sensitive issues, so I have to answer all the messages myself," he explained. "I'm not just any influencer coming up with crazy videos."

The Capuchin said the videos are part of a broader effort to make the church more present in the lives of the Venezuelan people at a time that the country continues experiencing a harrowing economic crisis.

Hyperinflation and food shortages have forced more than 4 million Venezuelans to leave the country in the past five years, according to the United Nations. Hundreds of people have been imprisoned for protesting against the ruling socialist party and street demonstrations have been met with police repression.

Friar Salazar has attended several of the anti-government protests himself, wearing his brown habit and comforting protesters who suffer from the effects of tear gas.

"I've been to other countries, like Spain or Colombia or Peru, and I know there are other ways to live. So I also head out into the street to tell the world that what is going on in Venezuela is wrong. And that we deserve something better," he said.

Father Salazar mentions that some of his superiors have asked him to not wear his robe during marches, but he maintained that doing so would betray his philosophy as a priest. "I think that it is important for the Venezuelan people to see that the church is with them," he said.

When there are no protests taking place, Friar Salazar's parish helps the local population by organizing a weekly soup kitchen that has served up to 800 people in a day. Dishes are served with proper silverware and on ceramic plates to show those going through rough times that they are worthy of a better standard of living.

Father Salazar avoids discussing politics in his homilies, but he tried to bring the Bible home to his audiences by referring to everyday situations in his Instagram videos, such as the discrimination facing Venezuelan migrants who arrive in South American countries.

In a recent video, he discussed a passage from the Gospel of Luke that talks abut how Jesus cured 10 lepers that he found on the road to Jerusalem, including a man a Samaritan. It turns out that the Samaritan was the only leper who returned to Jesus to thank him for the miraculous deed.

"Interesting," Father Salazar noted in the video. "Jesus cured a foreigner. That's because he doesn't suffer from xenophobia."

As the priest continues to churn out his weekly videos, the demand for them appears to be growing. Five television stations in Venezuela are showing the "Living the Gospel" series and Catholics from the U.S. and Brazil have contacted Father Salazar to ask if he can translate the vides into English and Portuguese.

Father Salazar said he will need more volunteers to help him with that.

"These videos are something that has come from the spirit," he said. "People like them because they are thirsty for the word of God."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

From sidewalk weeds to Amazon waterways, the wonders of creation abound

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The forests, rivers and swamps of the Amazon basin do many things. They lock away carbon and methane, two key greenhouse gases. They produce half of the rain that falls over the region. They are a source of timber, fruit and medicines.

But amid the forest of statistics -- tons of carbon dioxide, inches of rainfall, export value of acai palm fruit pulp -- people risk losing sight of the wonder St. Francis of Assisi felt when contemplating his brothers, wind and air, and his sisters, water and Mother Earth.

Many people have "a very disconnected view of creation and of humanity right now," said Josianne Gauthier, secretary-general of CIDSE, a consortium of Catholic development agencies.

"We have detached emotion and faith and wonder and awe and recognizing the divine in all that surrounds us, and we've boxed everything into neat categories," Gauthier, a special guest at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, told Catholic News Service.

Since the synod opened Oct. 6 participants, especially indigenous observers, have spoken of their deep bond with the earth. But where can Catholics turn to recover that sense of connection with all of creation, especially amid the concrete and traffic of cities far from the Amazon?

For Marie Dennis, it's a single dogwood tree that she visits through the seasons in Washington, D.C., where she lives.

"I wait for it to flower in the spring and turn to this gorgeous red color in the fall," said Dennis, former co-president of Pax Christi, who lives in the Franciscan-inspired Assisi Community in the capital.

"It is so easy for us to be completely alienated from the rest of the natural world" and just see it as resources to be used, she told CNS.

Look carefully, though, and connections with nature are visible almost everywhere, even where urban pavement seems to have steamrolled over the natural world.

"It's the food we eat, or it's the weed that pushes up through the crack in the sidewalk, or it's the one tree on the block that manages to survive and to grow every year and to produce beautiful leaves," Dennis said. "Or it's the sun, or it's the rain."

Water is the great shaper of life in the Amazon basin, where rivers overflow their banks during the annual flood season, fertilizing the forest and filling the lakes with fish. It also connects all humans with the Amazon and with one another, Gauthier said.

"There has been no new source of water on this earth, ever," she added. "It's the same water that's running through the earth and traveling, going up into the clouds and back again, and it's been traveling through our bloodstreams and through our systems forever."

That makes it more difficult to "deny the connection between ourselves and the water that we're consuming," she said. "If you recognize that you have value, then you have to recognize that the other elements of creation have value and have a right to be protected."

Water flows through Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" and has been a theme at the synod. Indigenous participants carried a dugout canoe -- the most basic form of transportation for peoples of the Amazon -- in a procession to the synod hall during the opening prayer Oct. 7.

But water not only keeps people and ecosystems alive, it also links the past and the present, said Christiana Zenner, a theology professor at Fordham University in New York City.

When she encounters a river, she says, "I look at the way it plays, and how its force runs." She also thinks about the things it has absorbed -nutrients for the forest, contaminants dumped by humans and the memory of peoples who live along its banks.

The synod also has highlighted the ways in which closeness to water, and to the earth, forges a common bond among indigenous people -- a relationship that synod participants have emphasized repeatedly.

Although all people once shared that bond, the concept of progress embraced by industrialized countries has distanced many people from their ancient roots, Dennis said.

Pope Francis acknowledged that during his trip to Peru in January 2018 when he told Amazonian indigenous people that the church wanted to listen to them. From that encounter flowed the synod, where indigenous people from the nine Amazonian countries are participating as observers.

For Dennis, that is a sign of a new beginning, like the dogwood in spring.

"We have an opportunity now," she said, "to sit at the feet of so many indigenous communities who (historically) have had those relationships with water and earth and trees and sky that we lost along the way" and learn from them.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Mission is to make disciples for Christ, not for one's group, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every Christian is called to be a missionary, sharing the good news of salvation in Christ and making disciples for him, not for oneself or one's clique of like-minded believers, Pope Francis said.

"What instructions does the Lord give us for going forth to others? Only one, and it's very simple: Make disciples. But, be careful: his disciples, not our own," the pope said Oct. 20 as he celebrated World Mission Sunday.

Dozens of participants from the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon joined the pope for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica; many indigenous wore their native headdresses, had their faces painted or dressed in traditional clothes.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer after Mass, Pope Francis recalled the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's apostolic letter on mission, "Maximum Illud." The letter, Pope Francis said, was motivated by his predecessor's conviction of "the need to evangelically relaunch the church's mission in the world so that it would be purified of any colonial incrustation and freed from the influences of the expansionist policies of European nations."

Today, he said, the letter calls Catholics "to overcome the temptation of every self-referential closure and every form of pastoral pessimism in order to open us to the joyful newness of the Gospel."

At a time when globalization seems more about "homogenization" and power struggles that breed conflict and "ruin the planet" rather than solidarity and respect for differences, Pope Francis said, Christians must be missionary disciples who share the Gospel with humility and respect.

The pope asked Catholics to commit themselves to a new effort to proclaim "the good news that in Jesus mercy defeats sin, hope defeats fear, brotherhood defeats hostility."

"Christ is our peace," the pope said, "and in him every division is overcome; in him alone there is salvation for every person and all people."

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis said Christians are called to share God's love and mercy with all people. "All, because no one is excluded from his heart, from his salvation. All, so that our heart can go beyond human boundaries and particularism based on a self-centeredness that displeases God. All, because everyone is a precious treasure, and the meaning of life is found only in giving this treasure to others."

"Those who bear witness to Jesus go out to all, not just to their own acquaintances or their little group," he said.

The call to be a missionary is a call that is included in every Christian's baptism, the pope said, telling people at the Mass: "Jesus is also saying to you: 'Go, don't miss a chance to bear me witness!' My brother, my sister, the Lord expects from you a testimony that no one can give in your place."

The first and most important way to share the Gospel with others is by living it, he said. "A credible proclamation is not made with beautiful words, but by an exemplary life: a life of service that is capable of rejecting all those material things that shrink the heart and make people indifferent and inward-looking; a life that renounces the useless things that entangle the heart in order to find time for God and others."

Being a missionary disciple, he said, does not mean "conquering, mandating, proselytizing," but rather "witnessing, humbling oneself alongside other disciples and offering with love the love that we ourselves received."

"Our mission," he said, is "to give pure and fresh air to those immersed in the pollution of our world; to bring to earth that peace which fills us with joy whenever we meet Jesus on the mountain in prayer; to show by our lives, and perhaps even by our words, that God loves everyone and never tires of anyone."

 

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Catholic school students in Bahamas show resiliency after Dorian

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Tracy

By Tom Tracy

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama (CNS) -- While many public schools in Grand Bahama remain closed some five weeks after Hurricane Dorian's landfall, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy is back in session with a new daily schedule and newly refurbished spaces.

Principal Joye Ritchie-Greene said her school opened first, followed by other private schools and some public schools in the area. The academy also picked up a few students who transferred from local public schools along with at least two students who transferred from a Catholic school in Abaco that was demolished by the September hurricane.

Although it suffered storm-surge flooding damage, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy was able to get a jump on post-Dorian renovations with restored electrical power Sept. 23 based on a provisional agreement with the electric company, allowing water-damage repairs to begin immediately, the principal said.

The academy's high school resumed classes Sept. 17, with earlier starting and ending times and the primary grades returned the following week.

Ritchie-Greene pointed out that hurricane preparedness and lockdown plans are a part of life in the Bahamas, but there also has been a bit of a learning curve in the aftermath of such a powerful storm.

To accommodate the many challenges students and their families are facing right now, the school adjusted its schedule to begin and end a little earlier each day and teachers have said the students are more productive with the changes.

"The shift in our schedule was originally to accommodate children who didn't have electricity at home, who didn't have running water, who were still living with family members and needed extra time to do personal things -- but we realized that they were more attentive at school," the principal said.

And while there were no hurricane-related fatalities among the faculty or student body, many have relatives or close friends who experienced these tragedies.

At least three faculty members and about seven or eight student families reported total loss of their homes and personal possessions. Several have taken some time off, and many took short trips off the island to regroup.

"In terms of the social-emotional aspect, we had counselors and psychologists on campus the first two days and we have had counselors speak at our general parent-teacher association meeting last week sharing with parents coping skills for themselves as well as for the children," Ritchie-Greene told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami Archdiocese.

In addition, three primary teachers attended special training sessions for trauma and have been incorporating what they learned in their music and art classes. When the students came back, they were also greeted by a stack of pen-pal letters from students at St. Cecilia's School in Dallas.

"What we have found is that the children have been very resilient, sharing and talking," Ritchie-Greene said. "We thought it would have taken longer for them to settle in."

However, she added, soon after the school reopened, "it was as though the storm had not happened: Geography was being taught, history was being taught, physics was being taught -- teaching and learning was going on and so I was pleased with that sense of normalcy."

Ritchie-Greene said the schools in the Bahamas have clear hurricane guidelines and staff teams making sure everything is in place.

"You need to have a plan, you need to have members of the team knowing what is expected of them, but once the storm has happened, it also helps if you have persons above you who also know how to manage and act quickly," she added.

The aftermath of a hurricane forces you to put your life in perspective, Ritchie-Greene said, adding: "It really causes us to pause and think about what is most important and there is a somberness to people's moods (now) and people's emotions are raw. We need to be sensitive to that."

Put another way, she said: "I recognize that how I respond to what a parent is saying to me is so important because I recognize that we are just out of a very traumatic experience and people aren't thinking rationally."

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

 

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Church must make 'preferential option for the Amazon,' bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As tropical forests fall victim to loggers, miners and ranchers, the Catholic Church must take sides to defend the Amazon region and its people, said a bishop whose Bolivian diocese has been ravaged by fire this year.

"Just like we had a preferential option for the poor, this is a preferential option for the Amazon," Bishop Robert H. Flock of San Ignacio de Velasco told Catholic News Service. The bishop, a Wisconsin native, is participating in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon being held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

Between July and October, an area the size of South Carolina burned in his diocese in the northern Bolivian lowlands known as the Chiquitana region. That was nearly one-sixth of the entire diocese.

Villagers lost homes and crops, and at least three firefighters died battling the blazes.

Farmers and ranchers set fire to their fields every year to clear land and kill insect pests, but this year was worse than most because of a prolonged drought and climate change, Bishop Flock said.

Government policies to promote expansion of ranch land to increase beef production, combined with a national government decree authorizing controlled burning, contributed to the crisis.

The state of Santa Cruz, which includes the San Ignacio diocese, declared a state of emergency in August, but it was not until rains arrived during the first week of October that the fires finally smoldered out.

Indigenous people from San Ignacio de Velasco arrived Oct. 16 in the city of Santa Cruz, the state capital, after a monthlong protest march. Angered by the slow official response to the fires, they demanded that the government rescind the controlled-burning decree. They also called for agricultural assistance and public services like electricity.

The fierce fire season, especially in Bolivia and Brazil, came on top of steady destruction of the forest to make way for industrial-scale agriculture and cattle ranching. Those practices make wildfires more likely.

"Deforestation means less humidity, less humidity means drier conditions, and drier conditions mean more fires," Bishop Flock said. "More fires mean less forest. It's a vicious circle."

The evaporation of water from the leaves of Amazonian trees creates about half of the rain that falls over region, scientists have found. Forest loss therefore means less precipitation.

The Andean highlands to the south and west of Bolivia's part of the Amazon basin depend on rain from the Amazon forest, the bishop said. "So, if the forest goes, it will have a ripple effect on the whole Bolivian ecosystem and on the world."

Pope Francis underscored both that interconnectedness and the urgent need for action in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si'" and during the synod.

"Integral ecology means you can't separate defense of the ecology from defense of the peoples, because it's their territory in the first place, their piece of creation, and their lives that are at stake," Bishop Flock said.

Development is necessary, because people need public services like health care and education, and they must be able to make a living, he said. But it must ensure that forests on which rural dwellers depend will be there for their children and grandchildren.

"The peoples of the Amazon are best placed to know what sustainable development means in their own home," Bishop Flock said. "We can't force Western models" on them.

The voice of the church "is important and it's worldwide," he said. "We have to say that this destruction of the Amazon and the violence against its peoples and defenders has to stop. The church sides with them."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Catholic priest murdered in Kenya, latest in string of killings

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fredrick Nzwili

By Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- A Catholic priest who disappeared from his family home was found dead in a shallow grave in southeastern Kenya a week after he was reported missing.

Police investigators and pathologists Oct. 16 exhumed the body of Father Michael Maingi Kyengo, 43. They said his body had been stashed in a sack.

Onlookers watched in shock as Father Kyengo's body was pulled from a seasonal riverbed. Police said he had been strangled and that his body had been disfigured.

Father Kyengo was a parish priest in Thatha at a parish in the Diocese of Machakos.

He had been staying with his parents at their home about 32 miles north of Nairobi before his family reported him missing Oct. 11. He had traveled there for his annual leave Oct. 1, said Father Josephat Kyambuu, another priest at the parish.

"I had heard not from him for two weeks. It hit me to hear of his death," Father Kyambuu told Catholic News Service Oct. 17. "He never said he was facing any threats."

The death is among a string of clergy homicides in recent months.

Father Kyengo's body was found after investigators traced his cellphone, car and credit card from a 25-year-old suspect, who was arrested and was being held in police custody. Police said the suspect took investigators to the shallow grave.

A local newspaper reported that as many as four people may have participated in the killing.

Father Kyengo had served as a priest in Thatha since his ordination in 2012.

Other Kenyan priests also have been killed during robberies as well as for their opposition to human rights abuses and strong stands against corruption.

"Many bishops and priests have been targeted for exposing evil practices. They are being killed for standing for the truth," said Father Nicholas Mutua, justice and peace coordinator in the Diocese of Garissa.

In some cases, authorities said, the clergymen were likely targeted by people who think they may be carrying large amounts of church funds.

In December, Father John Njoroge, a parish priest in Kiambu, 10 miles north of Nairobi, was shot dead by thugs who robbed him of the weekly church collection.

Four men had blocked the priest's car on a dirt road and demanded a bag containing money that he was carrying. The gunmen shot the priest through the windshield of the car in which he was riding, striking him in the chest.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Development proposals at synod raise questions about indigenous rights

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals for Amazonian development made by well-known observers at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon could conflict with the expectations of indigenous people unless they are included in decision-making, some synod participants said.

In his four-minute presentation to the synod on Oct. 15, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University called for a common global plan for the forest and the peoples who live there. He proposed increased investment by the world's countries to preserve Amazonian forests, the creation of an international scientific panel, and action by governments to curb deforestation.

A week earlier, Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre proposed taking advantage of modern technologies of what economists call the "fourth industrial revolution" to create a "bioeconomy" of sustainably produced items that would keep the forest standing. Processing Amazonian fruits and nuts, as well as crops like cocoa, can be more profitable than ranching, which is one of the main drivers of deforestation, he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Both proposals reflect a series of recommendations made in an essay titled "Scientific Framework to Save the Amazon," which was prepared for the synod by more than 40 scientists, including Nobre. The essay cites Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" and calls for countries to adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It also presents the proposal of developing "bio-industries" to produce foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other products using forests as a source, and calls for companies to ensure that any products they purchase are sustainably produced.

Several synod participants worried that such proposals could sideline indigenous people from decisions about development, especially if their land rights are not secure. Local communities in the Amazon must have the power to decide what kind of development they want, they said.

The scientific framework essay links the proposed bioeconomy to concept of integral ecology described in "Laudato Si'." Critics, however, said that it put a price on nature and created the risk of privatizing forest resources that communities now view collective goods.

Others noted that although outside experts invited to the synod speak from their own perspectives, the rights of indigenous peoples have been a constant theme during individual presentations and small-group discussions.

People who questioned the proposals said Sachs and Nobre did not mention indigenous people's right to be consulted about projects affecting them, which is enshrined in international treaties. They also worried that outsiders could use development projects to benefit themselves instead of the communities from which forest products are taken.

Nobre told Catholic News Service that the proposal is still new and that the scientists involved have not conducted a formal consultation with indigenous groups. He said the idea is for communities to operate their own businesses and not to open the door to outsiders.

Although she did not refer directly to those proposals, Yesica Patiachi Tayori, a Harakbut woman from Peru, told journalists Oct. 16, "We don't want (the synod) to end in a mercantilist discourse."

Patiachi, who made that remark at the daily press briefing, was one of the speakers who addressed the pope in January 2018 during his encounter with indigenous people in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. On that occasion, she asked him to help her people defend themselves against "outsiders who see us as weak and insist on taking our territory away from us in different ways."

Inside the synod and at parallel events nearby, indigenous people have called for church leaders especially to support their efforts to obtain official rights to their territories. When they do not have legal title, they risk losing their land to land speculators, private enterprises like mining companies, or outsiders who engage in illegal logging, wildcat gold mining or other illicit activities.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has halted the demarcation of indigenous lands even where the process was underway. In Peru, hundreds of indigenous communities await titling.

Amazonian indigenous groups hope that the pope, as an internationally known figure, will amplify their demand for respect for their rights and territories, Gregorio Diaz, president of an umbrella organization of Amazonian indigenous groups, told CNS.

"The synod has to issue a strong message to governments that are making decisions (that affect) indigenous peoples," he said.

At a news briefing Oct. 14, he called for the church to stand up for indigenous people who risk assassination or who face criminal prosecution and imprisonment for defending their territories.

He also asked the church to help indigenous people "talk with the new gods of the developed world, (such as) Google, the International Monetary Fund, the European Economic Commission and the World Bank," and to encourage Amazonian governments to "sit down and talk with us."

Amazonian governors are expected to attend a meeting at the Vatican Oct. 28, Brazilian media reported.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Couple says adoption is a blessing, gift and 'roller coaster of emotions'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Benjamin Wideman

KIEL, Wis. (CNS) -- After David and Maria Schuette got married in 2015, they wanted a family right away but months later they found out that infertility issues would likely prevent them from having children of their own.

"It was tough knowing that everything I thought about growing a family as a little girl ... it wasn't going to happen that way," Maria told The Compass, diocesan newspaper of Green Bay. "So there was a lot of pain and sadness over the loss of what we thought growing our family would look like," she added.

David agreed. "The pain we were experiencing was a combination of the infertility and the unknowns of adoption. Even when making the decision to adopt, we were fearful it would take five years, if it even happened at all. And we didn't know where to start or what the future would look like."

Now, it turns out the future is working out well for the Schuettes, proud parents of Isaac, 18 months old, and Eli, 8 months old, both adopted.

David and Maria, members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel, were at the hospitals for each birth and remain in close communication with their sons' birth parents.

The new parents, who are both 30, are thrilled to be growing their family, even if it occurred differently than they originally planned.

"The joy of parenthood isn't dependent on whether your child is your biological child. We have so much love and joy being parents to Isaac and Eli," said David, adding they are discussing adopting a third child.

Their adoption journey began in spring 2017.

At the time, Maria worked for the Diocese of Green Bay in youth ministry and religious education so she knew about Catholic Charities' work in facilitating adoptions.

"Catholic Charities was phenomenal in helping us understand adoption from a pro-life perspective," Maria said, which included "how to care and walk with birth mothers and birth fathers and what our role was in that entire process."

She said they received an email that Isaac's parents had been referred to Catholic Charities and that several other matches fell through before they connected with Isaac's parents.

"Four weeks later, Isaac was born," Maria said. "When Isaac was about 7 months old, we met another birth mother through a friend of a friend, and that's how we got two adoptions 10 months apart."

Although David and Maria were at the hospitals for each birth, the two situations were different.

Isaac was born with a congenital heart defect and spent 11 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care.

"Isaac is doing great now," David said. "He's sort of a miracle baby. But the doctors weren't sure how his health would be when he was born."

David and Maria were able to be in the room with Eli's birth.

"We were very, very lucky to be at the hospitals for both of the boys' births and to be matched the way we were," David said.

Early in the adoption process, the Schuettes wondered about ongoing contact with birth parents.

"What if the birth parents wanted to come back and co-parent?" she recalled thinking. "That was really a bit scary."

However, after learning more and being in contact with both sets of birth parents, she now calls it "a very special relationship. We have a lot of respect for the birth parents. Both sets expressed before they had the boys that they would like to have contact."

Sometimes there are visits, sometimes text messages.

"We really give preference to the birth parents with how they'd like to be communicated with," Maria said. "We very much love them for who they are and who God made them to be and the decision they made to place their children with us."

David and Maria are pleased that their sons are close in age and feature different personalities; Isaac is outgoing, whereas Eli is reserved.

"We continue learning every day how to be parents," Maria said. "Whether we had the boys biologically or they came to us through adoption, they are God's children first and we are caretakers of them. We learn every day how to be better parents, how to be more loving, more patient, more giving. And we have a lot of fun in the process."

The Schuettes enjoy sharing those experiences with others. In part because they were public about the adoptions, Maria said about 10 families, who are also struggling with infertility and considering adoption, have reached out to them.

"The biggest thing I'd say to (prospective adoptive parents) is to give it a chance," said David, noting that both his youngest sister and paternal grandmother were adopted. "For the most part, people are very open and want to share their experiences and help others. And agencies do a great job of educating."

"Adoption is a great blessing and gift, but also a roller coaster of emotions," Maria said. "We tell families to trust and have faith that there is a child out there for you. Our family is a picture of that."

Maria also had a message for birth parents considering placing their child for adoption.

"Know that you aren't alone and that there are many, many people who love you and want to help you," she said. "Please don't be afraid to reach out for help. Know there are people there to support you every step of the way."

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Wideman writes for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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North American indigenous support Amazonian indigenous at synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon heard pleas to defend the rights of the region's indigenous people and of the land they hold sacred, indigenous leaders from Canada and the United States came to Rome to support them.

Accompanied by representatives of their nations' bishops' conferences, the North Americans said Oct. 17 that the struggle for justice, for recognition of territorial rights and for the defense of the Earth unite the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America.

Sister Priscilla Solomon, an Ojibway and a Sister of St. Joseph Sault Ste. Marie from Canada, said the indigenous peoples of the Americas "have a very similar kind of spirituality, vision, values that teach us that everything is connected: not only people, human beings, but we are part of land. The land is us. The water is us."

Colonization is also a common experience, she said, and one that has left members of the First Nations and Native Americans impoverished, both materially and culturally since their languages, customs and spirituality often were suppressed.

Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who accompanied the group, said one task of the delegation was to look at the synod's "implications for our homelands," specifically as regards the treatment of native peoples and the ecological challenges present in North America.

But also, he said, "How are we impacted by what is happening in the Amazon" and "How are we implicated," especially in ties to or outright ownership of the mining and other companies extracting resources, polluting the land and waters and leaving entire populations deeper in poverty.

Rita Means, a longtime activist and representative on the tribal council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, told reporters that as "a mother and grandmother," she feels driven to work for justice for her people and the protection of the Earth.

Like the Amazonian indigenous trying to protect their lands from the activity of various extractive industries like mining and logging, she said, the Lakota Sioux and others are fighting the encroachment on their lands of oil pipelines.

"Some of these extractive industries are very destructive to our homeland," she said. "Again, as a mother and grandmother, I guess I find that particularly painful."

She and her people have been "nourishing that 'turtle continent' (Earth) for many centuries and to see it being attacked in such a vicious and destructive way really tears at my heart," Means said. "The Earth is crying for our assistance and this is one call that we cannot fail to answer."

Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said he wanted to show his people's solidarity for the Amazonian indigenous, who are experiencing "what happened to us 100-120 years ago" with people trying to steal their land to extract resources. For the Lakota, he said, "there was gold in the hills and they just stole our land."

Sister Solomon said she does not believe the Catholic Church should try to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity, "but where there is openness to knowing Christ and the teachings of the church, the church needs to be ready to offer that."

Bordeaux said the Bible presents Jesus as one who got involved in the lives of the people he encountered, so Christians should ask themselves "What would Jesus do today? Would he stand aside, quiet? I think we know the answer and the church knows the answer."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]