RIO DE JANEIRO ( Associated Press) — The Archbishop of Manaus will go down in history as the first cardinal to arrive from the Amazon region when he kneels before Pope Francis on Aug. 27.
“The population feels that the distance between Rome and the Amazon has shrunk,” future Cardinal Leonardo Steiner said in a written interview with the Associated Press. “Perhaps this is what causes the Amazonians to rejoice in the measure of Pope Francis.”
Steiner attributed his appointment to four papal priorities: a desire to increase missionary work and care for the poor in the Amazon; Caring for the Amazon “as our common home” and becoming a church that “knows how to contribute to the autonomy of indigenous peoples.”
The Amazon, which spans nine countries, is larger than the European Union. According to the Catholic Church, it is home to 34 million people, of whom more than 3 million are indigenous from 400 ethnic groups.
There is also a political lens through which the ongoing environmental conflicts in the region are viewed: the socio-environmental agenda of the church is a contentious issue for many Pentecostal churches. They have a powerful bloc in the Brazilian parliament, allied with the bloc in favor of the animal trade. Pentecostal and Rancher are part of the political base of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
Cardinals are the hierarchy of the Church just below the Pope. Called the “red hat” because of the color of his hat, he is the pontiff’s chief advisor. More importantly, he is the one who will elect the next pope, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Church watchers will not be surprised that Francis has finally named an Amazonian cardinal, given how important the area is to his pontiff and he has taken note of it.
For Brazilian priest and historian José Oscar Bejo, Pope Francis is promoting a type of “patriarchy” in the Amazon, similar to the Five Patriarchates in places such as Jerusalem and Constantinople during the early Middle Ages, in an effort to elevate the status of the Amazon. Huh. within the Catholic structure.
Bezojo said the synod, the creation of the Amazon region’s ecclesiastical convention in 2020 and now Steiner’s elevation, are part of Francis’ goal to bring forth the world’s largest rainforest.
“His election begins a very important moment, to regard the Amazon as a region with its own church dynamics, which welcomes the leading role of the region’s indigenous peoples.”
Winfield reported from Rome
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