The Amazon: New paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology

Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region

 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region / Mission / Published Date:12 February 2020/Last Updated Date:5 March 2021

Free Article


 This text presents the commitments, recommendations, and suggestions found in The Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology, the final document of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region in October 2019. The numbers in parentheses refer to the paragraphs of the final report document.


La Civilta Cattolica


Use advanced science and technologies to help save the rainforest, protect the ecosystems of the Amazon and its indigenous and traditional peoples and, at the same time, provide sustainable economic activities. (11)

Promote a permanent network of pastoral work against human trafficking linked to migration. (13)

The new paths of evangelization must be developed in dialogue with fundamental wisdoms making themselves manifest as seeds of the Word. (14)

The Church now has the historic opportunity to distance itself from the new colonizing powers by listening to the Amazonian peoples and acting in a transparent and prophetic manner in order to present Christ with all his power to liberate and humanise. (15)

Listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor and of the peoples of the Amazon; embrace a true integral conversion, with a simple and modest style of life, all nourished by a mystical spirituality in the style of St Francis of Assisi, a model of integral conversion lived with Christian happiness and joy (cf. LS 12). A prayerful reading of God’s Word will help us to deepen and discover the groaning of the Spirit and encourage us in our commitment to care for our common home. (17)



Undergo a pastoral conversion in order to be a missionary Church that reaches out. (20)

The missionary and baptismal dynamism impels the Church to pastoral conversion and transforms us into living communities working in teams and networks in the service of evangelization. (21)

Encourage collaborative actions with regard to the Word: translations of the Bible into the local languages, joint publications, dissemination and distribution, theological encounters and meetings between Catholic theologians and those of various other denominations and confessions. (24)

Develop initiatives of encounter, study and dialogue with the followers of indigenous religions and afro-descendant cults. (25)

Generate a greater missionary impulse among native vocations. (26)

Give indigenous pastoral ministry its specific place in the Church. Define, develop and adopt pastoral actions that support evangelization among indigenous communities. Establish and consolidate diocesan indigenous pastoral organizations with renewed missionary activity, listening in dialogue, incarnate and permanently present. (27)

Aspire to an indigenous Church with its own priests and ministers always united and in full communion with the Catholic Church. (27)

It is necessary to address the rural world as a whole and rural pastoral ministry in particular. The Church must respond to the depopulation of the countryside. (28)

The forced displacement of indigenous, peasant, afro-descendant and riverside families, pressured to leave or suffocated by the lack of opportunities, demands a joint pastoral response in the urban slums. Accordingly missionary teams will be needed to accompany them, coordinating parishes and other institutions in the Church and beyond, to offer welcome and celebrate inculturated liturgies in the languages of migrants; promoting opportunities for cultural exchanges; enhancing integration in the community and in the city; and encouraging them to take the initiative in this work. (29)

Accompany young people throughout the whole territory and help them to face every situation that destroys their identity or damages their self-esteem. (30)

In urban centres the Church is called to be a prophetic presence among young people, offering them adequate accompaniment and appropriate education. (31)

Develop a pastoral ministry always in process, centred on Jesus Christ and his project, integral and in dialogue, committed to all the situations of young people in the territory today. (32)

Promote new forms of evangelization through social media (CV 86); help young indigenous people achieve a healthy interculturality; and help them face the crisis of negative values that destroy their self-esteem and make them lose their identity. (33)

Defend everyone’s right to the city, defined as the equitable enjoyment of cities within the principles of sustainability, democracy and social justice. (35)

Influence public policies and promote initiatives that improve the quality of life in rural areas, thus preventing uncontrolled displacement to the cities. (35)

Pastors should encourage each and every one of the faithful to missionary discipleship. (36)

Church communities should participate in shaping public policies that aim to revitalize culture, coexistence, leisure and celebration. (36)

Struggle so that the slums, the “favelas” and “villas miseria” have their fundamental rights to water, energy and housing guaranteed, and promote good citizenship of integral ecology. (36)

The communities in Amazon cities should establish a ministry of welcome, extending fraternal solidarity to migrants, refugees, homeless people and those who have arrived from the rural areas. (36)

It is necessary to develop indigenous urban pastoral ministry that addresses the specific reality of urban settings. (37)

We propose a network of itinerant ministries that brings together the various efforts of teams that accompany and energize the life and faith of the communities in the Amazon. (40)

Lay people and pastors together need to discern paths for public advocacy that aim at social transformation. (40)

Religious congregations and/or their provinces in the rest of the world that are not yet involved in such missions, are invited to establish at least one missionary initiative in one of the countries of the Amazon. (40)



Our conversion must also be cultural in order to adapt to the other, to learn from the other. To be present, to respect and recognize their values, to live and practice inculturation and inter-culturality in our proclamation of the Good News. (41)

The pluri-cultural reality of the Amazon territories requires an inclusive attitude and uses appropriate language – language that allows all the groups to be identified and linked, that reflects identities that are recognized, respected and promoted in the Church as well as in society, and that confirms the Amazonian peoples as valid interlocutors for dialogue and encounter. (42)

Promote the demarcation and protection of land, which are obligations of national States and their respective governments. (45)

The Church commits itself to be an ally of the Amazonian peoples in denouncing attacks on the life of the indigenous communities, the projects that harm the environment, the lack of demarcation of their territories, as well as the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development. (46)

Uphold the rights of indigenous, mestizo, riverside, peasant, quilombola and/or afro-descendant peoples and traditional communities to self-determination, demarcation of territories and prior, free and informed consultation. (47)

An option for the defence of PIAV or PIACI does not exempt the local Churches from pastoral responsibility for them. (49)

Concretely defending PIAV/PIACI’s rights means advocating that States assume the responsibility to defend their rights through the legal and inviolable guarantees over the territories they traditionally occupy, including adopting precautionary measures in regions where there are only signs but no official confirmation of their presence and establishing bilateral cooperation mechanisms between States when these groups occupy cross-border areas. Respect for their self-determination and for their free choice about the type of relationships they want to establish with other groups must be guaranteed. (50)

All the people of God, and especially the populations who border the territories of the PIAV/PIACI, must be made aware of respect for these peoples and the importance of the inviolability of their territories. (50)

“An appropriate catechesis must be given to accompany the faith already present in popular religiosity. One concrete possibility is to offer a process of Christian initiation” (DAp 300) which leads us to resemble Jesus Christ more and more. (53)

We are all invited to approach the Amazon peoples on an equal footing, respecting their history, their cultures, their style of ‘good living’. (55)

In the evangelizing task of the Church, which must not be confused with proselytism, we should include clear processes of inculturation of our missionary methods and plans. (56)

The Church’s research and pastoral centres, in alliance with the indigenous peoples, should study, compile and systematize the traditions of the Amazon’s ethnic groups in order to favour an educational effort that starts from their identity and culture, helps in the promotion and defence of their rights, and preserves and disseminates their value in the Latin American cultural context. (56)

Develop educational processes that, in both their form and their content, have the cultural identity of Amazon communities, and that insist on a crosscutting formation in integral ecology. (57)

Promote preventive health education and offer health care in places which state assistance does not reach. (58)

Develop new integrative approaches that benefit the health of the Amazon peoples. (58)

Promote the sharing of ancestral knowledge in the field of traditional medicine specific to each culture. (58)

Promote an education for solidarity that springs from the awareness of a common origin and a future shared by all. (59)

Governments should be required to implement public, intercultural and bilingual education. (59)

Promote a communicative culture that favours dialogue, the culture of encounter, and the care of our common home. (60)

Strengthen the already existing sources of communication in the region with a view to encouraging and promoting integral ecological conversion. (60)

We must collaborate in the training of local communicators, especially indigenous ones. (60)

Create an All-Amazon Church communication network, to include the various media used by particular churches and other church bodies, in order to develop the various connections with the whole Amazon and improve its communication. (61)

REPAM can collaborate in advising and supporting training programs and in monitoring and strengthening communication throughout the Amazon. (61)

Create a bilingual education network (similar to Fe y Alegría) for schools in the Amazon that develops educational proposals in response to the needs of the communities while respecting, appreciating, and integrating cultural and linguistic identity. (62)

Favour, sustain and support the educational experiences of bilingual intercultural education that already exist in the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Amazon; and involve Catholic universities in the work and as participants in the network. (63)

Look for new forms of conventional and unconventional education, such as distance learning, to meet the requirements in terms of persons, times and places. (64)



Confront the unlimited exploitation of our common home and its inhabitants. (67)

Recognize and support the central role of the Amazon biome for the equilibrium of the planet’s climate. (68)

Encourage the international community to provide new economic resources for protecting the Amazon biome and for the promotion of a model of just and solidary development, with the protagonism and direct participation of local communities and native peoples in all phases from planning to implementation, thereby also strengthening the tools already developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Rio de Janeiro, 1992. (68)

Defend and promote human rights as a requirement of faith. (70)

Denounce the violation of human rights and extractive destruction. (70)

Embrace and support campaigns of divestment from extractive companies responsible for the socio-ecological damage of the Amazon, starting with our own Church institutions and also in alliance with other churches. (70)

Call for a radical energy transition and the search for alternatives: “Civilization requires energy, but the use of energy must not destroy civilization!” (70)

Design and develop training programs on the care of our common home, for pastoral agents and other faithful, open to the whole community, in an effort to make the population aware. (70)

Seek alternative economic models, more sustainable, friendly to nature, and with solid spiritual support. (71)

Ask States to stop considering the Amazon as an inexhaustible warehouse and to develop investment policies that feature compliance with high social and environmental standards and the fundamental principle of the preservation of the Amazon as a condition for any intervention. (71)

Include organized indigenous peoples and other Amazon communities as well as the different scientific institutions that are already proposing models that show the benefits of keeping the forest standing. (71)

The new paradigm of sustainable development must be socially inclusive, combining scientific and traditional knowledge to empower traditional and indigenous communities, where women are in the majority, and make these technologies serve the well-being and protection of the forests. (71)

Discuss the real value that any economic or extractive activity offers, that is to say, the value that it contributes and returns to the land and to society, considering the wealth that it extracts from them and the socio-ecological consequences. (72)

Support a culture of peace and respect – not violence and violation – and a person-centred economy that also cares for nature. (73)

Beginning with the cosmovisions that are built with the communities and restoring their ancestral wisdom, generate alternatives focused on integral ecological development. (73)

Support projects that propose a solidary and sustainable economy, circular and ecological, both locally and internationally, at the level of research and on the ground, in the formal and informal sectors. (73)

Support and promote cooperative initiatives in bio-production, forest reserves and sustainable consumption. (73)

Advocate a formation that takes the ethical and spiritual quality of people’s life into account within an integral vision. (75)

Give priority attention to communities affected by socio-environmental damage. (75)

Form pastoral agents and ordained ministers who show socio-environmental care. (75)

Promote a lifestyle in harmony with the territory and, at the same time, with the ‘good living’ of those who live there. (75)

Recognize the wisdom of the Amazon peoples about biodiversity, the innovations and practices of the local populations, respecting the sovereignty of countries and their laws regulating access to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. (76)

Help these populations to ensure that the benefits of using this knowledge, these innovations and practices are shared in a model of sustainable and inclusive development. (76)

Choose to defend life, the land and the native Amazon cultures. This includes accompanying the Amazon peoples in the registration, processing and dissemination of data and information about their territories and their legal status. (78)

Prioritize advocacy and accompaniment to achieve land demarcation, especially that of the PIACI or PIAV, encouraging States to comply with their constitutional obligations on these issues, including the right of access to water. (78)

Create ministries for the care of our common home in the Amazon, whose function is to take care of the territory and its waters together with the indigenous communities, and a ministry of welcome for those who are displaced from their territories towards the cities. (79)

Defend life fully and seamlessly, from conception to natural death, and the dignity of each and every person. (80)

Support the efforts of so many who courageously defend life in all its forms and stages. (80)

Curb situations of sin, structures of death, violence and internal and external injustice, and promote inter-cultural, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue. (80)

Unlearn, learn and relearn, in order to overcome any tendency toward colonizing models that have caused harm in the past. (81)

Be aware of the power of neo-colonialism which is present in our daily decisions and the predominant model of development that is expressed in the increasing use of monocrop agriculture, our forms of transportation and the illusions of well-being based on the pervasive consumerism that our society enjoys and that has direct and indirect implications in the Amazon. (81)

Embrace a spirituality of integral ecology, in order to promote the care of creation. (81)

Be a much more participatory and inclusive community of missionary disciples. (81)

Define ecological sin as an action or omission against God, against one’s neighbour, the community and the environment. (82)

Create special ministries for the care of our common home and the promotion of integral ecology at the parish level and in each Church jurisdiction. Their functions include, among others, the care of the territory and of the waters, as well as the promotion of the encyclical Laudato si‘. (82)

Take up the pastoral, educational and advocacy program in Chapters V and VI of the encyclical Laudato si‘ at all levels and structures of the Church. (82)

As a way of repaying the ecological debt that countries owe to the Amazon, create a world fund to cover part of the budgets of the communities present in the Amazon to promote their integral and self-sustaining development and so also to protect them from predatory compulsion to extract their natural resources at the behest of national and multinational companies. (83)

Adopt responsible habits that respect and value the peoples of the Amazon, their traditions and wisdom, protecting the earth and changing our culture of excessive consumption with its production of solid waste, and instead encouraging reuse and recycling. (84)

Plant trees and seek sustainable alternatives in agriculture, energy and transportation that respect the rights of nature and of people. (84)

Promote education in integral ecology at all levels, and promote new economic models and initiatives towards a sustainable quality of life. (84)

Create a pastoral socio-environmental office to strengthen the struggle in the defence of life, in alliance with CELAM, CLAR, Caritas, REPAM, national Bishops’ Conferences, local Churches, Catholic Universities, CIDH, other non-ecclesial actors on the continent and representatives of indigenous peoples. (85)

Have the Office diagnose the territory and its socio-environmental conflicts in each local and regional Church, in support of taking positions, making decisions and defending the rights of the most vulnerable. (85)

Establish an Amazon office in the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to relate with the Office and other local Amazon institutions. (85) 



In order to walk together, encourage a conversion to the synodal experience in the Church today. (88)

Strengthen a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion in order to find areas and ways of joint decision-making and to respond to pastoral challenges. (88)

Go forward to make proposals and take on responsibilities to overcome clericalism and arbitrary impositions. (88)

Recognize a real practice of the sensus fidei of all the People of God in order to be Church. (88)

Constantly practice discernment, which is at the centre of synodal processes and events. (90)

Determine and follow the path to be taken in the service of God’s plan, through the lived theological interpretation of the signs of the times and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (90)

Discover a call that God makes clear in each particular historical situation, through community discernment. (90)

Practice reciprocal listening, sincere dialogue and community discernment for the common good of the People of God in the Amazon Region. (90)

Persevere under the impulse of the Holy Spirit in small communities, parishes, dioceses, vicariates, prelatures and in the whole region. (90)

Implement, with evangelical courage, new paths for the life of the Church and its service to an integral ecology in the Amazon. (91)

Reflect on how to structure the local churches in each region and country, and to move forward in a synodal conversion that points to common paths in evangelization. (91)

Infuse a synodal spirit in the communities, supported by organizational structures in harmony with this dynamic, as authentic organisms of “communion”. (92)

Decentralize the forms for exercising synodality at the various levels (diocesan, regional, national, universal); they should be respectful and attentive to local processes, without weakening the bond with the other sister Churches and with the universal Church. (92)

Make the laity privileged actors in the Church in the Amazon that yearns for a society of justice and solidarity in the care of our common home. Their action has been and is vital in the coordination of Church communities, in the exercise of ministries, as well as in prophetic commitment to a world that includes everyone, and whose martyrs give witness and challenge us. (93)

Strengthen and broaden opportunities for the participation of the laity (assemblies and pastoral councils in all Church areas, as well as coordination teams of the different pastoral services and ministries entrusted to the laity), whether in consultation or decision-making, in the life and mission of the Church. (94)

Promote and confer ministries for men and women in an equitable manner in the Church in the Amazon. (95)

In the absence of priests, the Bishop may mandate and entrust the exercise of pastoral care of the communities for a specific period of time to a person not invested with the priestly character, who is a member of the community. Prolonged individual incumbency should be avoided and so it will be a rotating position. The Bishop may constitute this ministry on behalf of the Christian community with an official mandate through a ritual act so that the person responsible for the community is also recognized at the civil and local levels. (96)

Value how the mission strengthens and renews religious life, reminding it to recover the best and most powerful of its original inspiration. (98)

Opt for a religious life with an Amazonian identity, strengthening indigenous vocations. (98)

Support the insertion and itinerancy of consecrated persons amongst the most impoverished and excluded. (98)

Include inculturation, an inter-cultural approach, and dialogues between spiritualities and Amazonian worldviews in formation processes. (98)

Create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. (99)

Do not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. (99)

Value the role of women, recognizing their fundamental role in the formation and continuity of cultures, in spirituality, in communities and families. (101)

Participate in the Church’s commitment to defend the rights of women who are victims of physical, moral and religious violence, including femicide, and to recognise them as protagonists and guardians of creation and of our common home. (102)

Promote the formation of women in biblical theology, systematic theology and canon law, valuing their presence in organizations and leadership within the Church environment and beyond. (102)

Strengthen family ties, especially for migrant women. (102)

Assure women’s place in leadership and formation. (102)

Revise the Motu Propio of St. Paul VI, Ministeria quaedam (1972), so that women who have been properly trained and prepared can receive the ministries of Lector and Acolyte, among others to be developed. (102)

In the new contexts of evangelization and pastoral ministry in the Amazon, where the majority of Catholic communities are led by women, create an instituted ministry of “women community leadership” and recognize it as part of meeting the changing demands of evangelization and care for communities. (102)

Share our experiences and reflections about the diaconate of women with the Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women and await its results. (103)

Acknowledge the urgency of the promotion, formation and support of permanent deacons in the Amazon Church because of the importance of this ministry for the community. (104)

Encourage today’s diaconate to promote integral ecology, human development, social pastoral work, and service to those in situations of vulnerability and poverty; modelled on Christ the Servant and becoming a merciful, samaritan, solidary and diaconal Church. (104)

Urge priests are to keep in mind that the deacon is at the service of the community by appointment and under the authority of the bishop, and that they have an obligation to support permanent deacons and to act in communion with them. (105)

Keep the maintenance of the permanent deacons in view. (105)

Design the formation program of permanent deacons to combine academic study and pastoral practice and accompanied by a formation team and the parish community; the contents and sequence of activities must be adapted to each local reality. (105)

It is desirable that the wife and children participate in the formation process. (105)

The program of studies or curriculum for the formation of permanent deacons, in addition to the mandatory subjects, should include topics that foster ecumenical, interreligious, and intercultural dialogue, the history of the Church in the Amazon, affectivity and sexuality, indigenous worldviews, integral ecology, and other cross-cutting themes that are relevant to the diaconal ministry. (106)

Encourage, support and personally accompany the vocational process and formation of future permanent deacons in the riverside and indigenous communities, with the participation of pastors and religious men and women. (106)

A follow-up program should offer ongoing formation (spirituality, theological training, pastoral matters, updates on Church documents, etc.), under the guidance of the bishop. (106)

Formation for ordained ministry should be a communal schooling that is fraternal, experiential, spiritual, pastoral and doctrinal; in contact with the real lives of people; in harmony with the local culture and religiosity; and close to the poor. (107)

Prepare good pastors who live the Good News of the Kingdom; know canon law; are compassionate and as much like Jesus as possible; whose practice is to do the will of the Father, nourished by the Eucharist and Holy Scripture. (107)

Offer future priests of the Amazon’s churches a formation with an Amazonian face, inserted in and adapted to the reality, contextualized and able to respond to the many pastoral and missionary challenges, a formation plan in line with the challenges of the local churches and the reality of the Amazon. Its academic content should include disciplines such as integral ecology, ecotheology, theology of creation, Indian theologies, ecological spirituality, the history of the Church in the Amazon, Amazonian cultural anthropology, and so on. The formation centres for priestly and religious life should preferably be inserted in the Amazonian reality, with a view to keeping the young Amazonian in formation in contact with his or her own territory while preparing for the future mission, thus guaranteeing that the process of formation not distance itself from the people’s lived reality and their culture, as well as offering other young non-Amazonians the opportunity to take part of their formation in the Amazon, thus fostering missionary vocations. (108)

Acknowledge and address the right of the community to the celebration of the Eucharist, which derives from its essence and its place in the economy of salvation. (110)

Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but rather expresses and serves it (cf. LG 13; OE 6), witness the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, direct the competent authority to establish criteria and dispositions, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region. (111)

In the face of the substantial and varied “Amazon Cost”, rethink the way in which local churches are organized; review the structures of communion at the provincial, regional and national levels, and also from a Pan-Amazon point of view; articulate synodal spaces and generate networks of solidarity and support; and overcome the barriers that geography imposes and build bridges that unite. (112)

Consistent with the Aparecida document’s insistence that local Churches generate forms of interdiocesan association in each nation or between countries in a region and that they foster greater cooperation among sister churches (cf. DAp 182): reconfigure the vast geographical areas of the dioceses, vicariates and prelatures; to create an Amazon fund for the support of evangelization; and sensitize and encourage international Catholic cooperation agencies, in addition to their socially oriented projects, to support activities of evangelization. (112)

Strengthen the joint social pastoral work of dioceses along international borders in order to face common problems that go beyond the local level, such as the exploitation of persons and of the territory, drug trafficking, corruption, human trafficking, etc. (113)

Encourage the border churches to address the migration problem in a coordinated way. (113)

Establish an Amazon Catholic University based on interdisciplinary research (including field studies), inculturation and inter-cultural dialogue. (114)

Teach theology in an inculturated manner by including joint formation for lay ministries and priestly formation, based primarily on Sacred Scripture. (114)

Include environmental study programmes (environmental theory along with the wisdom of the peoples living in the Amazon region) and ethnic studies (description of the different languages, etc.) in research, education and extension activities. (114)

Respect the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples, with inculturated teaching materials being developed and outreach activities being held in different countries and regions in teacher training, teaching and educational materials. (114)

Encourage the Catholic universities of Latin America to help in the creation of the Amazon Catholic University and to accompany its development. (114)

Create a Bishops’ organism that promotes synodality among the churches of the region, helps to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon. (115)

Give an authentically catholic response to the request of the Amazonian communities to adapt the liturgy by valuing the original worldview, traditions, symbols and rites that include transcendent, community and ecological dimensions. (116)

Guide the Church, in her tireless labour of evangelization, to work so that the process of inculturation of the faith may be expressed with the utmost coherence, in order that it may also be celebrated and lived in the languages proper to the Amazon’s peoples. (118)

Form committees for the translation of biblical texts and the preparation of liturgical texts in the different local languages, with the necessary resources, preserving the substance of the sacraments and adapting their form, without losing sight of what is essential. (118)

Encourage music and songs, all of which is included in and encouraged by the liturgy. (118)

Encourage the new organism of the Church in the Amazon to establish a competent commission to study and discuss, according to the habits and customs of the ancestral peoples, the elaboration of an Amazonian rite that expresses the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Amazon, with special reference to what Lumen Gentium affirms for the Oriental Churches (cf. LG 23). (119)

Study and propose how to enrich Church rites with the way in which these peoples care for their territory and relate to its waters. (119)