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Post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Querida Amazonia" (nn. 41-60)

2020, February 2




41. In a cultural reality like the Amazon region, where there is such a close relationship between human beings and nature, daily existence is always cosmic. Setting others free from their forms of bondage surely involves caring for the environment and defending it,[46] but, even more, helping the human heart to be open with trust to the God who not only has created all that exists, but has also given us himself in Jesus Christ. The Lord, who is the first to care for us, teaches us to care for our brothers and sisters and the environment which he daily gives us. This is the first ecology that we need.

In the Amazon region, one better understands the words of Benedict XVI when he said that, “alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a ‘human’ ecology which in turn demands a ‘social’ ecology. All this means that humanity… must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology”.[47] This insistence that “everything is connected”[48] is particularly true of a territory like the Amazon region.

42. If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where “the forest is not a resource to be exploited; it is a being, or various beings, with which we have to relate”.[49] The wisdom of the original peoples of the Amazon region “inspires care and respect for creation, with a clear consciousness of its limits, and prohibits its abuse. To abuse nature is to abuse our ancestors, our brothers and sisters, creation and the Creator, and to mortgage the future”.[50] When the indigenous peoples “remain on their land, they themselves care for it best”,[51] provided that they do not let themselves be taken in by the siren songs and the self-serving proposals of power groups. The harm done to nature affects those peoples in a very direct and verifiable way, since, in their words, “we are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth”.[52]


This dream made of water

43. In the Amazon region, water is queen; the rivers and streams are like veins, and water determines every form of life: “There, in the dead of summer, when the last gusts from the East subside in the still air, the hydrometer takes the place of the thermometer in determining the weather. Lives depend on a painful alternation of falls and rises in the level of the great rivers. These always swell in an impressive manner. The Amazonas overflows its bed and in just a few days raises the level of its waters… The flooding puts a stop to everything. Caught in the dense foliage of the igarapies, man awaits with rare stoicism the inexorable end of that paradoxical winter of elevated temperatures. The receding of the waters is summer. It is the resurrection of the primitive activity of those who carry on with the only form of life compatible with the unequal extremes of nature that make the continuation of any effort impossible”.[53]

44. The shimmering water of the great Amazon River collects and enlivens all its surroundings:

capital of the syllables of water,
father and patriarch, you are
the hidden eternity
of the processes of fertilization;
streams alight upon you like birds”.[54]

45. The Amazon is also the spinal column that creates harmony and unity: “the river does not divide us. It unites us and helps us live together amid different cultures and languages”.[55] While it is true that in these lands there are many “Amazon regions”, the principal axis is the great river, the offspring of many rivers: “From the high mountain range where the snows are eternal, the water descends and traces a shimmering line along the ancient skin of the rock: the Amazon is born. It is born every second. It descends slowly, a sinuous ray of light, and then swells in the lowland. Rushing upon green spaces, it invents its own path and expands. Underground waters well up to embrace the water that falls from the Andes. From the belly of the pure white clouds, swept by the wind, water falls from heaven. It collects and advances, multiplied in infinite pathways, bathing the immense plain… This is the Great Amazonia, covering the humid tropic with its astonishingly thick forest, vast reaches untouched by man, pulsing with life threading through its deep waters… From the time that men have lived there, there has arisen from the depths of its waters, and running through the heart of its forest, a terrible fear: that its life is slowly but surely coming to an end”.[56]

46. Popular poets, enamoured of its immense beauty, have tried to express the feelings this river evokes and the life that it bestows as it passes amid a dance of dolphins, anacondas, trees and canoes. Yet they also lament the dangers that menace it. Those poets, contemplatives and prophets, help free us from the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that destroys nature and robs us of a truly dignified existence: “The world is suffering from its feet being turned into rubber, its legs into leather, its body into cloth and its head into steel… The world is suffering from its trees being turned into rifles, its ploughshares into tanks, as the image of the sower scattering seed yields to the tank with its flamethrower, which sows only deserts. Only poetry, with its humble voice, will be able to save this world”.[57]


The cry of the Amazon region

47. Poetry helps give voice to a painful sensation shared by many of us today. The inescapable truth is that, as things stand, this way of treating the Amazon territory spells the end for so much life, for so much beauty, even though people would like to keep thinking that nothing is happening:

“Those who thought that the river was only a piece of rope,
a plaything, were mistaken.
The river is a thin vein on the face of the earth…
The river is a cord enclosing animals and trees.
If pulled too tight, the river could burst.
It could burst and spatter our faces with water and blood”.[58]

48. The equilibrium of our planet also depends on the health of the Amazon region. Together with the biome of the Congo and Borneo, it contains a dazzling diversity of woodlands on which rain cycles, climate balance, and a great variety of living beings also depend. It serves as a great filter of carbon dioxide, which helps avoid the warming of the earth. For the most part, its surface is poor in topsoil, with the result that the forest “really grows on the soil and not from the soil”.[59] When the forest is eliminated, it is not replaced, because all that is left is a terrain with few nutrients that then turns into a dry land or one poor in vegetation. This is quite serious, since the interior of the Amazonian forest contains countless resources that could prove essential for curing diseases. Its fish, fruit and other abundant gifts provide rich nutrition for humanity. Furthermore, in an ecosystem like that of the Amazon region, each part is essential for the preservation of the whole. The lowlands and marine vegetation also need to be fertilized by the alluvium of the Amazon. The cry of the Amazon region reaches everyone because “the conquest and exploitation of resources… has today reached the point of threatening the environment’s hospitable aspect: the environment as ‘resource’ risks threatening the environment as ‘home’”.[60] The interest of a few powerful industries should not be considered more important than the good of the Amazon region and of humanity as a whole.

49. It is not enough to be concerned about preserving the most visible species in danger of extinction. There is a crucial need to realize that “the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place.”[61] This is easily overlooked when evaluating the environmental impact of economic projects of extraction, energy, timber and other industries that destroy and pollute. So too, the water that abounds in the Amazon region is an essential good for human survival, yet the sources of pollution are increasing.[62]

50. Indeed, in addition to the economic interests of local business persons and politicians, there also exist “huge global economic interests”.[63] The answer is not to be found, then, in “internationalizing” the Amazon region,[64] but rather in a greater sense of responsibility on the part of national governments. In this regard, “we cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests”.[65]

51. To protect the Amazon region, it is good to combine ancestral wisdom with contemporary technical knowledge, always working for a sustainable management of the land while also preserving the lifestyle and value systems of those who live there.[66] They, particularly the original peoples, have a right to receive – in addition to basic education – thorough and straightforward information about projects, their extent and their consequences and risks, in order to be able to relate that information to their own interests and their own knowledge of the place, and thus to give or withhold their consent, or to propose alternatives.[67]

52. The powerful are never satisfied with the profits they make, and the resources of economic power greatly increase as a result of scientific and technological advances. For this reason, all of us should insist on the urgent need to establish “a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems… otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics, but also freedom and justice”.[68] If God calls us to listen both to the cry of the poor and that of the earth,[69] then for us, “the cry of the Amazon region to the Creator is similar to the cry of God’s people in Egypt (cf. Ex 3:7). It is a cry of slavery and abandonment pleading for freedom”.[70]


The prophecy of contemplation

53. Frequently we let our consciences be deadened, since “distractions constantly dull our realization of just how limited and finite our world really is”.[71] From a superficial standpoint, we might well think that “things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen”.[72]

54. In addition, I would also observe that each distinct species has a value in itself, yet “each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right”.[73]

55. From the original peoples, we can learn to contemplate the Amazon region and not simply analyze it, and thus appreciate this precious mystery that transcends us. We can love it, not simply use it, with the result that love can awaken a deep and sincere interest. Even more, we can feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it; then the Amazon region will once more become like a mother to us. For “we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings”.[74]

56. Let us awaken our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense that so often we let languish. Let us remember that “if someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple”.[75] On the other hand, if we enter into communion with the forest, our voices will easily blend with its own and become a prayer: “as we rest in the shade of an ancient eucalyptus, our prayer for light joins in the song of the eternal foliage”.[76] This interior conversion will enable us to weep for the Amazon region and to join in its cry to the Lord.

57. Jesus said: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight” (Lk 12:6). God our Father, who created each being in the universe with infinite love, calls us to be his means for hearing the cry of the Amazon region. If we respond to this heartrending plea, it will become clear that the creatures of the Amazon region are not forgotten by our heavenly Father. For Christians, Jesus himself cries out to us from their midst, “because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence”.[77] For all these reasons, we believers encounter in the Amazon region a theological locus, a space where God himself reveals himself and summons his sons and daughters.


Ecological education and habits

58. In this regard, we can take one step further and note that an integral ecology cannot be content simply with fine-tuning technical questions or political, juridical and social decisions. The best ecology always has an educational dimension that can encourage the development of new habits in individuals and groups. Sadly, many of those living in the Amazon region have acquired habits typical of the larger cities, where consumerism and the culture of waste are already deeply rooted. A sound and sustainable ecology, one capable of bringing about change, will not develop unless people are changed, unless they are encouraged to opt for another style of life, one less greedy and more serene, more respectful and less anxious, more fraternal.

59. Indeed, “the emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality… Our concern cannot be limited merely to the threat of extreme weather events, but must also extend to the catastrophic consequences of social unrest. Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction”.[78]

60. The Church, with her broad spiritual experience, her renewed appreciation of the value of creation, her concern for justice, her option for the poor, her educational tradition and her history of becoming incarnate in so many different cultures throughout the world, also desires to contribute to the protection and growth of the Amazon region.



[46] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate (29 June 2009), 51: AAS 101 (2009), 687: “Nature, especially in our time, is so integrated into the dynamics of society and culture that by now it hardly constitutes an independent variable. Desertification and the decline in productivity in some agricultural areas are also the result of impoverishment and underdevelopment among their inhabitants”.

[47] Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 8: Insegnamenti, II/2 (2006), 776.

[48] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 16, 91, 117, 138, 240: AAS 107 (2015), 854, 884, 894, 903, 941.

[49] Document Bolivia: informe país. Consulta pre sinodal, 2019, p. 36; cf. Instrumentum Laboris, 23.

[50] Instrumentum Laboris, 26.

[51] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 146: AAS 107 (2015), 906.

[52] Documento con aportes al Sínodo de la Diócesis de San José del Guaviare y de la Arquidiócesis de Villavicencio y Granada (Colombia); cf. Instrumentum Laboris, 17.

[53] EUCLIDES DA CUNHA, Los Sertones (Os Sertões), Buenos Aires (1946), 65-66.

[54] PABLO NERUDA, “Amazonas” in Canto General (1938), I, IV.

[55] REPAM, Document Eje de Fronteras. Preparación para el Sínodo de la Amazonia, Tabatinga-Brasil (3 February 2019), p. 3; cf. Instrumentum Laboris, 8.

[56] AMADEU THIAGO DE LELLO, Amazonas, patria da agua. Spanish translation by Jorge Timossi, in

[57] VINICIUS DE MORAES, Para vivir un gran amor, Buenos Aires, 2013, 166.

[58] JUAN CARLOS GALEANO, “Los que creyeron”, in Amazonia y otros poemas, ed. Universidad externado de Colombia, Bogotá, 2011, 44.

[59] HARALD SIOLI, A Amazônia, Petropolis (1985), 60.

[60] SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Address to an International Convention on “The Environment and Health” (24 March 1997), 2.

[61] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 34: AAS 107 (2015), 860.

[62] Cf. ibid., 28-31: AAS 107 (2015), 858-859.

[63] Ibid., 38: AAS 107 (2015), 862.


[65] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 38: AAS 107 (2015), 862.

[66] Cf. ibid, 144, 187: AAS 107 (2015), 905-906, 921.

[67] Cf. ibid., 183: AAS 107 (2015), 920.

[68] Ibid., 53: AAS 107 (2015), 868.

[69] Cf. ibid., 49: AAS 107 (2015), 866.

[70] Preparatory Document for the Synod on the Pan Amazon Region, 8.

[71] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 56: AAS 107 (2015), 869.

[72] Ibid., 59: AAS 107 (2015), 870.

[73] Ibid., 33: AAS 107 (2015), 860.

[74] Ibid, 220: AAS 107 (2015), 934.

[75] Ibid., 215: AAS 107 (2015), 932.

[76] SUI YUN, Cantos para el mendigo y el rey, Wiesbaden, 2000.

[77] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 100: AAS 107 (2015), 887.

[78] Ibid., 204: AAS 107 (2015), 928.