Following a recommendation by the Amazon synod, a new “ecclesial conference” for the Amazon region was created Monday.
The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon was established as a functionally autonomous group connected to the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM). Its creation was announced on the CELAM website, together with REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), June 29.
According to a press release, an assembly was held virtually June 26-29 and resulted in unanimous approval by voting members of the “identity, composition and general form of operation (statutes)” of the new conference.
“The composition of this assembly reflects the unity in diversity of our Church and its call to ever greater synodality,” the press release stated.
The statement also noted the participation of “important members of the Holy See ... who will undoubtedly continue to follow these new paths from their respective offices.”
Among those who took part in the virtual assembly were several Vatican representatives: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and Cardinal Michael Czerny, secretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees.
The creation of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon followed a proposal in the final document of the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region for “a permanent and representative bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region,” connected with CELAM and REPAM.
“So constituted, it can be the effective instrument in the territory of the Latin American and Caribbean Church for taking up many of the proposals that emerged in this synod,” paragraph 115 of the synod final document continued. “It would be the nexus for developing Church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”
The synod members said in the October 2019 document that having this organism “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.”
Pope Francis responded to the proposal in his own comments at the end of the Amazon synod Oct. 26, suggesting that the idea of a smaller regional bishops’ conference could be applied in the Amazon.
According to the press release, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the 85-year-old president of REPAM, was elected president of the new Amazon bishops’ conference and Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, 50, vicar apostolic of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was elected vice president.
The executive committee will include the presidents of the state bishops’ conferences, as well as CELAM, REPAM, Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR).
The press release also noted the participation of “three designated representatives of original peoples,” a religious sister and a lay woman and lay man, who also took part in the founding assembly.
REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.