Openness and freedom of speech: the testimony of Bishop Alfredo Vizcarra after one week of the Synod


Among the Jesuits participating in the Synod on the Amazon is the bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jaén, in the northeast of Peru. Bishop Alfredo Vizcarra succeeds several Jesuit confreres who have animated this Amazonian region since 1946. The vicariate is under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier. Over the decades, the Jesuits have supported what can be called “integral development” with projects that take into account first the people--the indigenous populations of the region--before the economic interests of the industrial sectors that see the Amazon as a profit-generating area. Radio Marañon, the vicariate’s radio, pursues objectives of education, awareness and information that support the values of local populations.

Bishop Vizcarra is active in the media. La Croix (France) and choisir (Switzerland), after Vatican Radio, have featured him. He has portrayed the difficulties and challenges faced by the people of his region: a clash between certain attractions of the modern world and money and the life of small Amazonian communities and their ancestral cultures. The response of the Church of Jaén is to propose development programmes that are more adapted to the relationship of indigenous peoples and nature. This implies a strong investment in education, particularly in the Fe y Alegría network of regional schools.

At the beginning of the Synod, the Jesuit bishop stated that this gathering is an opportunity for the Catholic Church to draw attention to what is really happening in the Amazon. The topics addressed are from the grassroots. The diversity of Amazonian peoples is quite real, but what is common to all is how they are bound to the great river and the forest. People involved in the Church, from community leaders to the bishops, are moving in the same direction: to support and strengthen the harmonious relationship between human beings, nature and God. In his view, listening to the Holy Spirit can open new paths--a key element for the success of the Synod.


We asked Bishop Vizcarra what he has learned from this first experience. Here is his testimony.

“At the end of the first week of the Synod of Pan-Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and an Integral Ecology, I would like to highlight the path of universality from the particularity that the Church is making.

Perhaps the symbol of this experience is the ‘pilgrimage’ that began the Synod on Monday, 8th October. We were all gathered in the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica, it seemed that the building did not fit with the costumes, the feathers, the boat, the songs of the people of God. We were asked to proceed, first to the Synod Fathers, and then to the people, as befits a protocol that had already been overturned. The boat represents the Church on the synodal journey, sailing to ever-deeper waters.

At the moment when the Pope took the initiative to lead the Synod Fathers, the people walked along with him, until we reached the Paul VI Hall: we all moved forward, a mix of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, indigenous laity, all surrounding the Holy Father, and we all sang in Portuguese, Spanish or some native language. We were already in ‘Amazonas mode.’ The boat of the Church advancing with Peter who opened the doors of his house and of his heart to the feathered.

What is happening in the Congregations (groups) is exactly the same. It is the Church of the Amazon that is being heard to listen to God within it: ‘Probably the original Amazonian peoples have never been so threatened in their territories as they are now... it is a cry that reaches heaven.’ (Pope Francis to the Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Maldonado)

In these deep waters we have to discover new ways for the Church and for integral ecology.”

Share this Post:
Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

Related Posts: