Brazilian Bishops from nine states wrote a letter recently to Pope Francis in defense of indigenous and other people affected by massive hydroelectric projects, and the Pope quoted them in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, repeating his concerns about environmental problems.
In their letter sent on October 31, the bishops, who were meeting at the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon Conference, expressed their wishes to defend the “most vulnerable” people of the Amazonian region. The conference was focused on dealing with the realities of the Amazonian area, which makes up 61 percent of Brazilian territory.
“Dear Pope Francis,” the letter read, “our desire is to promote and defend the lives of the inhabitants of this region, it’s biodiversity, to discern and take stances before the large governmental and international projects that care more about the interests of capital than the needs of people.”
“We position ourselves in defense of the most vulnerable population,” the missive continued, “in particular the indigenous, river and quilombo (rural Afro Brazilian) communities affected by the big projects, especially the hydroelectric ones that destroy their territories and ways of life.”
In the last five years, among the supporters of indigenous protestors fighting against hydroelectric projects (like Belo Monte) are Catholic bishops and clergy.
While the Vatican did not publicly respond to the Bishops’ letter, Pope Francis mentioned environmental issues and the plight of the Brazilian poor in his recently issued Apostolic Exhortation, a 200 page document dedicated to evangelization that includes sections on economic inequality and other social issues.
In the section of the Exhortation entitled The Church’s teachings on social issues, Pope Francis wrote, “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor. This has been eloquently stated by the bishops of Brazil.” The Pontiff went on to quote the section of the bishops’ letter that spoke about the severe conditions facing some Brazilians.
“An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world…to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet,” the Pope stated in the section of the Exhortation entitled The Church’s Teachings on Social Issues.
“With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind,” he wrote.