"Let's go back and preserve the integral ecology," says the bishop of Labrea, Amazonas (1/3)

In three months the Synod on the Amazon will have met in Rome with the theme approved by Pope Francis: "Amazon: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology". The Augustinian Recollect Santiago Sánchez Sebastián, Bishop of Lábrea, Amazonas, Brazil, will participate in the synod. With him we have maintained this long interview.
News | 2019 Jul 08

I suppose you will have no difficulty briefly presenting yourself to the visitors of this page .

If this helps you better understand the answers you give, none.

Well you have the word .

Although I am Spanish, from a village in Navarra, I've been in Brazil for thirteen years. First I was in the seminary   Saint Agostinho 's   Fortaleza , Ceará, later in the Parish   Santa Rita from   Manaus , Amazonas and, for three years in Labrea, as bishop of this Prelature, enormous in size, of more than 200,000 square kilometers. As a bishop, of course, I participate in the assemblies of the   Brazilian Episcopal Conference ( CNBB).

Recently the CNBB has had its annual plenary assembly: what major issues have you discussed? What has been your experience of this event? What climate is there in an assembly of more than 300 bishops? How does this work?

The main theme this year has been the   guidelines for the next four years . Every four years the new presidency is elected and the lines of action for those four years are approved. In addition to the main theme we have dealt with the   Amazonian Synod ; each commission president presented his work; the revision of the missal was approved and other liturgical issues were discussed; the current social and political situation was analyzed; the issue of education was addressed as well as the document on new movements and communities; the issue of child abuse and precautionary measures was not absent; the economic situation, the revision and updating of agreements, statutes, legislation ... In short, everything had its moment.

Theclimate of the assembly is fraternity . It is difficult to know all the bishops. Each year new ones are presented andare welcomed with love. It is spoken openly and freely. Fidelity to the Pope is clear.

Each issue is presented by a Commission that has worked previously. Dialogue, amendments are presented and voted on. Everything has to be approved by a majority (relative or absolute depending on the topics). We have time for meetings by ecclesiastical Regions, and also by Commissions. To work on long documents, groups are formed to study specific chapters and then plenary meetings come . Committees are also formed within the Assembly for specific topics, such as the message to the Pope, the cardinal referring to the bishops, the Brazilian people ...

Yuo haverecently been named vice president of the Northwest Ecclesiastical Region, of which the Augustinian Recollect Monsignor Joaquín Pertíñez has been named president. How many are the members of this Region?  

Labrea belongs to the Northwest Ecclesiastical Region, composed of six dioceses and our Prelature: The two dioceses of the state of Acre:   Rio Branco and  Cruzeiro del Sur ; the three dioceses of the state of Rondonia:   Porto Velho ,   Guajará Mirim and   Ji Paraná ; and a Diocese and a Prelature of the state of Amazonas:   Humaitá and   Labrea , respectively. In total 7 bishops. Like every Ecclesiastical Region, it has to have its presidency: president, vice-president and secretary.  (Dom)Joaquín Pertíñez , Augustinian Recollect, of Rio Branco, was elected president, Dom   Santiago Sanchez , also Augustinian Recollect, of Labrea, vice-president, and dom   Benedito Araújo , from Guajará Mirim, secretary.

What responsibilities does this appointment entail? What are your tasks?

The responsibility is to coordinate the Ecclesiastical Region and represent it in the general councils of the CNBB, which meet several times a year. For that we have two annual meetings of the Region, which last three days, in which we discuss the situation of our jurisdictions and the common themes of the Region. The president collects everything and also informs us of what happened in the General Councils.

Can the Northwest Region propose to the CNBB specific issues that especially affect the people of the Amazon?

Each Ecclesiastical Region brings to the General Council its concerns, proposals, challenges, achievements ... Each Region is respected and what affects the whole Church is the theme of the Assembly, to walk together. There is much respect for each particular Church and the guidelines of each one are assumed. A hot topic is now the   Synod on the Amazon , which affects our Region. Following the desire of the Pope, the theme has been worked from the ground up: communities, groups, pastoral ... Each Parish collects the results of those works, which, in turn, are prepared and directed in each Diocese to propose as Ecclesiastical Region the conclusion of all this to the Synod Commission. In the Assembly of the CNBB the result of this work was presented. We have great hope in the Synod for ecclesial work in our Northwest Region.

In about three months the Synod on the Pan-Amazon will be initiated by Pope Francis. Have they received from the Vatican study materials for the preparation of the synod or some lines of action?

As I said in the previous answer, we have worked according to the wish of  Pope Francisco. Each Synod has a working document prepared by experts. For this synod   The Pope wants to hear the voice of the Amazonian peoples , their concerns and pastoral proposals, their needs and respect for their identity. That is why they elaborated in Rome a   working document that was sent to all the Dioceses and Prelatures. Next to that document we received a   Work plan for small groups called " Dialogue wheels ". From these groups the result of the Parishes was collected; the results of the Parishes were sent to the Dioceses, and those of the Dioceses to the Ecclesiastical Region. From here, finally, they went to the Commission.   Now the Commission is preparing the working document for the Synod . The lines of action were very broad. What the Pope wants is to receive challenging proposals, and, certainly, they are being sent to him.

How has the CNBB prepared the Synod on the Pan-Amazon?

The CNBB appointed a special commission to help those appointed by the Pope.   DomRoque Palosqui , from our Northwest Region, bishop of   Porto Velho , is part of it.   The Synod on the Amazon is not a particular synod, but of the whole Church . Hence, it is celebrated in Rome and not in the Amazon. It is an issue that affects the whole Church. This universal reality has to be reflected in our Church in Brazil. In the Assembly of the CNBB we were informed about the work, the orientations, the contributions received ... and the Pope's wish that the bishops of the Amazon meet, in meetings for nations, to better define things. In August there will be a meeting of the Synod Bishops of Brazil in   Belem do Pará.

How have the bishops of the Brazilian Amazon prepared the synod? Have lay people, consecrated persons and other social groups taken part in this preparation? What concrete actions have you carried out?

Following these guidelines of the Pope, in all the Dioceses and Prelatures of the Brazilian Amazon these "Dialogue wheels" have been carried out. Some have done it as a study symposium, others have worked as training in several meetings, others as a day of retreat or reflection ... Specialists have been called, talks have been given ... and, above all,   He has met and listened to the people of God .   There is a lot of interest in listening to the voice of the indigenous people, of the riverside people . The voice of the missionaries, both religious and lay committed, has its weight and has much to say. We have tried to listen and do the will of Pope Francis, and we all want the best for our Church that walks in Amazonas with its   pastoral and ecological challenges .


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