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Pope Francis officially recognizes Amazon region ecclesial conference

Pope Francis at the opening Mass for the Amazon synod Oct. 6, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has approved the establishment of an ecclesial conference for the Amazon region, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon was created by bishops in Latin America in 2020 at the recommendation of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region.

The new body, which has the task of expressing “the Amazonian face” of the Church, goes by the acronym CEAMA, based on its Spanish title, Conferencia Eclesial de la Amazonía.

“Well disposed to favor such an initiative … Pope Francis instructed the Congregation for Bishops to follow and accompany the process closely, lending whatever help was needed to give the body an adequate form,” the Holy See press office said on Oct. 20.

The pope canonically erected the ecclesial conference as a “public ecclesiastical juridical person” during a meeting on Oct. 9 with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

In giving it official recognition, Pope Francis established its purpose as “promoting common pastoral action by the dioceses of the Amazon and encouraging greater inculturation of the faith in this territory.”

The creation of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon followed a proposal in the final document of the Amazon synod for “a permanent and representative bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region.”

The synod members said in the October 2019 document that having this organism would help “to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon.”

The document described the conference as “a nexus for developing Church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”

Pope Francis responded to the proposal in his own comments at the end of the Amazon synod in 2019, suggesting that the idea of a smaller regional conference could be applied in the Amazon.

The new ecclesial conference will be a functionally autonomous group connected with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

At a virtual meeting in June 2020, the 87-year-old Cardinal Cláudio Hummes was elected president of the ecclesial conference.

Hummes serves as the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), which describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, 51, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was elected vice president.

The executive committee will likely include the presidents of bishops’ conferences, as well as representatives of CELAM, REPAM, Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR), and indigenous peoples.

The official statutes of the new ecclesial conference are still under study and will be sent to Pope Francis for approval at a later date.