Post-pandemic adventures of the Bishop of Lábrea, Amazonas
In Santarém, Pará
Prelate Lábrea Santiago Sánchez, from June, was in almost continuous activity: from June 6th to 9th, the IV Meeting of Legal Amazonia was held in Santarém, recalling the 50 years of the historic meeting that marked the pastoral line in Brazil by putting into practice the Second Vatican Council with its guidelines and the determinations of Puebla and Medellín.
In the first meeting of Santarém only the bishops met, now there were priests, men and women religious, laity... with the challenge of updating today our pastoral walk, because in these 50 years many things have happened for our Amazon, the most outstanding being the Synod for Amazonas with its final document and the subsequent exhortation of the Pope, in addition to the creation of the CEAMA (Ecclesial Conference of Amazonas). The result of this meeting is the document already approved and published: "Document of Santarém 50 years: Gratitude and Prophecy". The publication also contains the letter that the Pope sent us and the messages of those gathered addressed to Pope Francis and the people of God.
From Santarém I moved to Manaus, where I had the opportunity to spend a week in our Parish of Saint Rita. A reunion with the religious and parish community with many joys and some sorrows. Above all, the sadness of the absentees carried by the pandemic that attacked Manaus so strongly; some of them very active in our Parish. The pastorals are still strong and persevering after six years that I am away, and I can say: how they have grown. It was a joy to participate in the celebration of the Corpus, also a meeting place with many acquaintances. Days well spent waiting for the trip to Rome for the ad limina visit.
Yes, the ad limina visit was the week of 19-26 June. It was my first visit, as well as a large number of the bishops of the North 1 and Northwest regions who formed the group this time. We begin with the celebration of Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican, presided over by the newly elected Cardinal Don Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, Archbishop of Manaus, who is part of our group. And to put on all of us the "filetata" (the cassock trimmed in red with the sash, the solideo and pectoral) for the audience with Pope Francis. Unique moment of two hours and 15 minutes of open dialogue in which he listened to each and every one of us and spoke to our hearts, according to the themes presented in our interventions. We were staying at the Pío Brasileiro school and the priests of The Work of the Church were in charge of the transfers, because the following days were the celebrations in the different basilicas and the meetings with the different dicasteries, the court of the Rota, the Secretariat of State... Very well attended by all we were able to present our concerns, questions, proposals ... with the same freedom with which we spoke with the Pope.
The world meeting of families with the Pope was taking place and we participated in some events. The fraternity among all the bishops was great, even the Pope perceived it and congratulated us and encouraged us to continue in this challenge. Unique experience; it marked us and we came out stronger.
When we finished the ad limina visit, the Recollect bishops Joaquín Pertíñez and Santiago Sánchez, Jesús María Cizaurre and Jesús María López Mauleón went together to the house of the general curia of the Order of Augustinian Recollects and fraternized with the brothers. We were also at Colegio de San Ildefonso, located on Via Sistine 11 with the community of Recollect students residing there. What a delight the united brothers, some of them new to Rome after the General Chapter...
Summer arrived with the hot August and from the 9th to the 17th I traveled to Brasilia for the Assembly of COMINA (National Missionary Council). First two days of meeting of the referential bishops of the different regions of Brazil and then the Assembly with revision of statutes, analysis of the reality, presentation of the work done so far (regional, diocesan, parish councils ...), effects of the pandemic, situation of the mission ad gentes (Brazil attends several missions in Africa), presentation of the Pontifical Mission Societies and other organizations working in Brazil, Collaboration of the Sister Churches (some dioceses with more human resources of priests, missionaries... and materials "sponsored" by other dioceses or prelatures most in need), projects and achievements of some commissions of the CNBB and other institutions... Already heading into the future and trying to win the time that the pandemic stole from us. Very useful, especially the personal testimonies. In São Paulo
A few days later new assembly, this time in Aparecida, São Paulo, the 59th General Assembly of the CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil) that in April had a first part on-line and now was the second part in person. Excitement of the 300 bishops we meet after more than two years; quite a few, new ones participating for the first time. We begin with a remembrance and prayer for the bishops who left us during the pandemic. Few days for a lot of work: the main theme was the analysis and future of the general guidelines of evangelizing action in Brazil, taking into account the social and religious situation that the nation is going through at the moment. After several votes, the Roman Missal was finally approved; the 18th National Eucharistic Congress was prepared; a new document on Biblical Animation was analyzed and approved; a number of commissions and councils were presented; there were meetings by Regions and meetings reserved only for bishops; the ministry of the Catechists was accepted and the ritual of their institution was approved; the thorny issue of the protection of children and adolescents and various legal issues were addressed; finally, the Synod of 2023 was discussed...
We dedicated a morning to the spiritual retreat that we closed with a procession of all the bishops from the meeting room to the basilica to the surprise of the pilgrims where we celebrated the Eucharist.
Another remarkable fact is that this year the CNBB celebrates 70 years, and for this reason a tribute event was prepared that was recorded live and broadcast on TV the next day. This time the presence of the Recollect bishops was scarce: we were only Dom José Luis Azcona, Dom Jesús María Cizaurre and I (Santiago Sánchez); it was not the emeritus dom Javier Hernández or dom Jesús Moraza; neither dom Joaquín Pertíñez, convalescing from his knee operation, nor dom Jesús María López Mauleón, who was in Rome on the course for new bishops.
When returning to Lábrea, the patron saint festivities were already underway: Our Lady of Nazareth, holder of the cathedral, patron saint of the city, patron saint of the Prelature, patron saint of Amazonia... This year the theme of the festivities was Education, following the motto of the Church of Brazil: Mary, Mother Educator. Every day two schools or educational institutions in the city were honored. It was nice that the evangelicals accepted the invitation and were present. There was no lack of the presence of our Esperanza Center. The participation was massive, especially in the musical event with Father Antonio María, a nationally recognized religious singer. Social events were also very crowded.
We are finishing the summer and we hope to reap the fruits watered with so many pastoral activities. May autumn be fruitful...
Santiago Sánchez, Augustinian Recollect, Bishop of Lábrea, AM, Brazil