5th National Missionary Congress of Brazil. Manaus, Amazon, 10-15 November 2023.

From November 10 to 15, the facilities of Estudo 5 in Manaus (Brazil), welcomed the 800 participants of this Congress, including 43 bishops, two of them Augustinian Recollects, under the theme: “Go! From the local Church to the ends of the earth.”

The capital of the Amazon, Manaus, hosted the celebration of the Fifth National Missionary Congress of Brazil, with 800 representatives of all the Dioceses and Prelatures of the country, 43 of them bishops. Under the Gospel motto “Burning hearts, feet on the way” (cf. Lk 24:13-35), the Congress debated cross-cutting themes such as the “ad/inter gentes” mission and the role of the local Church in the advancement of global evangelization.

“Go! From the local Church to the ends of the world” was the central theme of the five-day Congress. Several members of the Augustinian Recollect Family, the Prelature of Labrea, and the Parish of Santa Rita in Manaus participated in this ecclesial event.

From the Prelature of Labrea, headed by the Augustinian Recollect Bishop Santiago Sanchez, were Marcelo Viana, representative of Children Missionaries, and Sara Fontenelle, advisor to the Institute for the Development of the Amazon (IDAM), which works in Foz de Tapauá (Tapauá, Amazonas).

Also present was the Augustinian Recollect bishop Jesus Maria Lopez Mauleon, of the Prelature of Xingú-Tucumã. The delegate of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentino of the Augustinian Recollects in Brazil, Juan Cruz Vicario, and the Augustinian Recollect Francisco Ivanderlei Ribeiro, from the community of Manaus, participated as guests in the morning sessions.

Precisely, the Parish of Santa Rita in Manaus welcomed about twenty attendees, who were distributed throughout the homes of the parishioners during their stay in Manaus. For them, the parish prepared a cultural evening with typical foods and elements of Amazonian culture, which they appreciated and enjoyed.

After the reception on the 10th, the following day was dedicated to the art of listening, and missionary formation workshops. In the evening, the bishops participating in the Congress went to different parishes in Manaus to give various catechesis.

On the 12th, in addition to the morning conferences, a Pilgrimage of the Martyrs of the Amazon was held, in which the Augustinian Recollect missionary Cleusa Coelho, murdered for her defense of the indigenous cause in Lábrea in 1985, had a unique role.

On the 13th, the Children Missionaries of Lábrea presented a video of the work it carries out with the children of the place. It was a good moment to share the difficulties a missionary goes through in the remote rural areas of the Amazon. It was also an example of how a quality evangelizing task can be carried out with few resources.

The last two days, we talked about the proclamation of the Gospel, missionary animation, the evaluation of the Congress, the presentation of the conclusions of the thematic working groups, and the approval of the following letter of commitment that we published in its entirety before the closing presided over by the Cardinal of Manaus, Leonardo Steiner, and a community lunch.

To the missionaries of the local Churches

We meet in Manaus from November 10th to 15th, 2023, coming from all regions of Brazil to celebrate this 5th National Missionary Congress. The serious drought that affected the Amazon in these times of Climate change did not avoid the overflow of enthusiasm, generosity and commitment of its Church, which welcomed us into its homes, with all the flowers and all the flavors of its families.

Because of Jesus and his Gospel, we were present at the Congress, expressing the ardor and missionary testimony of the Church in Brazil, as delegates of our local Churches, to foster new momentum, new lights and new motivations in the missionary journey towards beyond all borders. Our assembly was made up of more than 800 people: 40 bishops, 150 consecrated men and women, 110 priests, 10 deacons, 30 seminarians, 300 lay men and women, representatives of original peoples and 200 volunteers from the Manaus teams.

We gathered to reflect on the theme: “Go! From the local Church to the ends of the world”, with the motto: “Burning hearts, feet on the journey”. Pope Francis, in the message he sent us, was happy with the choice of this motto and invited us to respond with joy to the Gospel we received: “the enchantment of the Good News that has reached you must not leave you complacent in a Church closed in on itself and frightened. , but push you with the strength of the Holy Spirit to go beyond borders”.

The mission is the paradigm, the axis that sustains and nourishes the entire Church. A mission based on reciprocal dialogue, which makes it possible to include strangers, the outskirts, enter the homes of the poor, listen to their cries, without prejudice, criticism, arrogance or rejection, from a logic different from God. A mission that includes everyone, and that creates spaces for listening and communion.

A synodal Church on mission to the ends of the world that crosses borders and lives ministeriality and co-responsibility, overcomes clericalism. A Samaritan Church is embodied in love for those who live on the geographical and existential peripheries. A Church for everyone. An incarnated, decolonial Church, not one of conquest, but guided by a mission of encounter and without fear of what is different.

Aware of our evangelizing mission, after days of listening and dialogue, we recognize the missionary strength of the Church of Brazil characterized by numerous initiatives developed throughout the territory. We reaffirm the relevance and relevance of the National Missionary Program (PMN), whose construction process began at the 4th National Missionary Congress, in Recife (2017).

From the Church of Manaus, we indicate some clues for expanding and dynamizing the four priorities of the National Missionary Program, namely:

  • Missionary Training: permanent and procedural training itineraries are developed that have interculturality as premises; the cries of reality; care for the Common Home; integral, inclusive, accessible, decolonial and ecosystemic training; missionary spirituality; synodality. Formative strategies are created for all ecclesial subjects, especially the laity, seminarians and clergy. Training aimed at understanding Missionary Councils at their various levels is encouraged. Actions such as: diocesan missionary schools are strengthened and included; missiology courses (lato and stricto sensu postgraduate studies); training mediated by distance education; creation of new missionary materials with local languages; vocational missionary week.
  • Missionary Animation: aims to awaken a missionary spirituality so that all life becomes a mission. It is a pastoral action to strengthen and dynamize all missionary forces. In this sense, it is essential to implement, organize and develop Missionary Councils at regional, diocesan and parish levels, in order to contribute to the pastoral plans of local churches. The need to promote synodal paths is highlighted so that the Pontifical Missionary Societies carry out their service to the local churches in the awakening of conscience ad gentes. The Missionary Campaign, as a precious instrument of missionary animation, must be known and promoted in all dioceses.
  • Mission Ad Gentes: the imperative of the local Church’s commitment to the universal mission of the Church is reaffirmed, for the consolidation of a missionary culture permeated by the spirit of cooperation across borders to the ends of the world. It indicates the need to develop strategies aimed at the sustainability of the mission ad gentes; monitoring the missionaries’ departure and return; to the rearticulation of Sister Churches projects. We can see the urgency of structures that encourage and assume the commitments inherent in sending lay missionaries. The Missionary Cultural Center is recommended as a reference for missionary training ad gentes.
  • Prophetic-social commitment: in deep alignment with the Social Doctrine of the Church, missionary activity is developed taking into account the complex and multiple vulnerabilities present in our realities. Missionary activity promotes and defends life on the planet, human rights, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the fight against all forms of racism, with an emphasis on the themes of migration, indigenous peoples, traditional communities and gender equality. In order to allow ourselves to be challenged by different circumstances, we reaffirm our commitment to childhood, adolescence and youth. In a prophetic way, we emphasize the need for the participation of lay Christians in different social and political spaces, as a strategy that contributes to the construction of a just and fraternal society guided by the values of the Kingdom.

We want, like the disciples of Emmaus, to continue weaving paths of search, listening and transformation so that the Resurrected One can open our eyes, convert our hearts and propel us towards the permanent mission. We are inspired to recognize Him in the daily lives of people, in their wisdom, their cultures, their rites, their territories and their stories.

We ask for the strength of the Spirit to go out to meet the poor and others, inspired by the gift of the lives of the martyrs, serving the Kingdom of God with a heart without borders and feet on the path. May Mary, Mother of the Amazon, accompany us on our missionary journey from local Churches to the ends of the world.

Manaus/AM, November 15, 2023.