October 4 is widely known for the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. It also marks the end of the Season of Creation month. This year, Pope Francis, Church leaders and indigenous communities planted a tree that will live in the Vatican gardens.
The ceremony was organised and hosted in collaboration with The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the Franciscan Friars (JPIC-PFM), and Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM). It was indeed historic as GCCM invited the Franciscan Institute, ministry of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, to be part of the event and other synod activities hosted in Rome by the GCCM during the month of October.
The institute’s representative and GCCM steering committee member Analisa Ramsahai gave an account of the events which occurred October 4–6.
At the Vatican gardens, Pope Francis consecrated the upcoming synod on the Amazon to St Francis. It was a highly symbolic event gesture to show how “everything is connected” (quote from encyclical letter Laudato Si’). This year’s Feast of St Francis of Assisi marks 40 years since Pope St John Paul II proclaimed St Francis Patron Saint “of those who promote ecology”.
The tree that was planted is a Holm Oak, from Assisi, which has been at the centre of one of St Francis’ famous conversations with creation. The name of the tree is believed to come from the old Anglo-Saxon word for “holly”— “holy”.
The soil in which the tree was planted came from the Amazon and celebrates the wealth of the bioregion’s cultures and traditions; the earth from India, represents countries’ most vulnerable to the climate crisis, where droughts and floods leave millions devastated.
The soil represents refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes because of war, poverty, and ecological devastation, places where human trafficking occurs, and from sustainable development projects around the world. This Season of Creation event marks “a season to respond to the ecological crisis”.
The conference ‘Voices from the Amazon: Land, People, and Religion’ sparked deep conversations and ideas on October 5, one day before the synod began at the Auditorium Antonianum, Rome.
The conference included Msgrs Hector Cabrejos, OFM, President of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America; Fr Julio Bunader, Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor; and Patricia Gualinga, Sarayaku Leader, Ecuador. We also had the opportunity to discuss the synod with synodal fathers and indigenous leaders of the Amazon bioregions.
On Sunday 6, I attended the Mass at St Peter’s Basilica for the Opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region.
Pope Francis in his homily urges the bishops to take to heart the message of St Paul in his Letter to Timothy. Pope Francis’ last words were for our brothers and sisters in Amazonia: they are “bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the gospel, the Church’s caress of love,” he said.
“So many of our brothers and sisters in Amazonia have poured out their life,” the Pope added. He quoted “our beloved Cardinal Hummes”, whom, he noted, regularly goes to the cemeteries of the small towns he visits in the Amazon. “And then, with a little shrewdness,” the Pope said, the Cardinal told him not to forget them, saying, “They deserve to be canonised.”
“For them,” the Pope concluded, “for these [people] who are giving their life now, for those who have poured out their life, and with them, let us journey together”.