Mons. Guillermo Steckling OMI
Bishop of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay)

The relevance of the Amazon Synod is impressive if we apply it to us here in Paraguay. Here, too, we urgently need the “integral ecology” that is proposed to us. What is it? The final document of the Synod offers the following explanation: Integral ecology has its foundation in the fact that “everything in the world is connected” (LS 16). For this reason, ecology and social justice are intrinsically united (cf. LS 137). (Final Document of the Amazon Synod n.66). This point was already one of the main points of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and now a whole synod has taken it as its theme: “The Amazon: new paths for the Church for an integral ecology”. Here in Paraguay, we realize that we are called to a new conversion to the Lord. God speaks to us louder and louder each time, through water, plants, animals, the climate, and He calls us out loudly through the excluded and forgotten people.

Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one that clearly respects its human and social dimensions.

Certainly, the Amazon is thousands of miles away from Paraguay. No doubt even here, further south, the forests burn and the climate changes. And the jungle already has largely disappeared. To this day, it continues to decrease at a rate, at times, of a thousand hectares a day! There is little room left for family farming, and the people of the countryside seek refuge in the big cities. Every day we come across more and more “urban natives”, many of whom walk aimlessly. Subtropical nature is beautiful and enchanting! Even more so are the people who live in direct contact with it, for example, the natives and farmers. The ecological conversion we need must embrace everything in its entirety: nature, men, women, and children, and make us once again trust in the provident gaze of the Creator. Why so much effort to earn money? We really need an integral ecology.

Another point of concern around the recent synod are the campaigns of groups, very present in social networks, who were committed to discrediting this assembly and, at the same time, the Church and the Pope who promoted it. They presume to see heresies everywhere and proclaim that the church must remain traditional. But is not the Bible with its prophets and poets, social doctrine, the courage of missionaries in the most remote areas who risk their lives, and the church in search of ever new horizons, “traditional”? In spite of all that, let us move forward with a firm and constant step. We find ourselves in good company on this synodal journey that we are already making, and which has yet to result in the Pope’s concluding exhortation. The saints of America walk with us, the Virgin Mary, and the One who makes all things new” (Rev 21:5).

(Originally published on the Missioni OMI magazine – January-February 2020 issue)