Marginalized people must not be ignored while God’s creation should be preserved and not treated as a resource to be exploited, Pope Francis has warned.
The pope’s comments were made during the closing Mass at the end of the contentious Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, that drew criticism from several groups within the Catholic Church.
The synod was attended by bishops, priests, laypeople, as well as indigenous people, from nine Amazonian countries, reported CNS.
Several participants, meanwhile, wore native dress as they led a procession into St. Peter’s Basilica on the final day of the nearly month-long summit, that saw the pope rebuke a bishop for making derogatory comments about an indigenous man wearing a traditional headdress at the synod’s opening Mass on Oct. 6.
The pope had highlighted the plight of indigenous peoples from the Amazon and the rainforest during the summit.
In his Oct. 27 homily Pope Francis used the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the tax collector to draw comparisons with the situation in the Amazon, and also to have the final say against conservatives who branded synod heretical.
The Pharisee was “the most pious and devout figure of the time, and the tax collector, the public sinner par excellence,” Pope Francis said. But in Jesus’ eyes, “the one who is good but presumptuous fails; the one who is a disaster but humble is exalted by God.”
The Pharisee “stands in the temple of God, but he practices another religion, the religion of ‘I,’ and many popular groups, Christian and Catholic, follow this path,” Pope Francis said. “The drama of this man is that he is without love.”
The tax collector’s prayer for mercy on the other hand “is born from the heart,” the pope said. “To pray is to stand before God’s eyes, without illusions, excuses or justifications.”
People are both tax collector and Pharisee, the pope said.
“We are a bit tax collectors because we are sinners, and a bit Pharisee because we are … masters of the art of self-justification.”
The Pharisee is there in “those who are prominent” considering others to be “backward and of little worth, despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy their lands, and usurp their goods,” he added.
Indigenous people at the synod had described a history of plundering the Amazon’s resources that has displaced many people and spawned violence such as the murder of people seeking to defend their land.
“In this synod we have had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and reflecting on the precariousness of their lives,” Pope Francis said.
Past experiences have not stopped the “plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth.”
The summit was branded heretical by some conservatives groups especially when a carving of a pregnant Amazon native woman was displayed at several prayer services.
In his homily, Pope Francis urged attendees to reflect on “whether we, too, may think that someone is inferior and can be tossed aside, even if only in our words.”
“Self-worship carries on hypocritically with its rites and ‘prayers,'” the pope said, adding that many people who fall into self-worship “profess to be Catholics, but have forgotten to be Christians and human beings, forgetting the true worship of God, which is always expressed in love of one’s neighbor.”
He encouraged attendees to “associate with the poor, to remind ourselves that we are poor, to remind ourselves that the salvation of God operates only in an atmosphere of interior poverty.”