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At catacombs, synod members pledge simplicity, closeness to the poor

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass marking World Mission Day in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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ROME (CNS) — More than a half-century after a group of bishops at the Second Vatican Council made a solemn pledge to live a simple lifestyle close to their people, a group of participants from the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon signed a new pact in the Catacombs of Domitilla.

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, relator general of the synod, presided at an early morning Mass Oct. 20 in the catacombs where he and several dozen synod participants signed the new “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home.”

The original Pact of the Catacombs was signed by 42 bishops Nov. 16, 1965, in the Catacombs of Domitilla.

Invoking the martyred Christians buried in the catacombs and the martyrs of the Amazon, the signers of the new document promised to defend the Amazon rainforest, to promote an “integral ecology” of care for people and for the Earth and, “before the avalanche of consumerism,” to live “a happily sober lifestyle, simple and in solidarity with those who have little or nothing.”

They made a renewed commitment to listening to and walking with migrants, the poor and, particularly, with the indigenous people of the Amazon, helping them “preserve their lands, cultures, languages, stories, identities and spiritualities.”

Doing so, the signers said, meant “to abandon, consequently, in our parishes, dioceses and groups all types of colonist mentality and posture,” instead “welcoming and valuing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity in a respectful dialogue with all spiritual traditions.”

Without mentioning the possible ordination of married men who are leaders of their communities, an idea that garnered much support at the synod as a way to give Catholics regular access to Mass and the sacraments, the bishops signing the pact committed themselves to “ensuring that the right to the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist are effective in all communities.”

They also promised to “recognize the services and real ‘diakonia’ of a great number of women” already ministering to Catholic communities in the region. Many of the small working groups at the synod spoke of a need to recognize officially the ministry of women in the church and a couple of the groups, in reports released Oct. 18, called for the ordination of women deacons.

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