Georgetown Hosts Historic Conference on the Amazon

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia addresses conference attendees

By: Jesse Gibson

From March 19-21, Georgetown University hosted an international conference entitled “Integral Ecology: A Synodal Response from the Amazon Region and Other Biomes / Essential territories for the Care of Our Common Home.” This event was organized by the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and co-sponsored by the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

This conference brought together a wide variety of experts from different fields to focus on one central issue: the preservation of our natural world. On Tuesday, March 19 the conference began with an official opening by the representatives of the co-sponsoring institutions, moderated by CLAS Director Father Matthew Carnes, S.J. These representatives included Father Mark Bosco, S.J. (Georgetown), Cardinal Peter Turkson (Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service), Monsignor Bernardito Auza (Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations), Father Ted Penton, S.J. (Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States), and Cardinal Pedro Barreto, S.J. (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network).

The First Panel of the REPAM conference was entitled “SEEING: A World in Socio-Environmental Crisis and featured presentations from Dr. Ismael Nobre of the State University of Campinas in Brazil and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The discussion set the stage for discussions of the social and environmental crisis affecting people around the world and was moderated by Father Augusto Zampini of the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development. After a brief recess, the conference reconvened for the second panel, “SEEING: Testimonies: The Cry of the People and the Cry of the Earth” featuring Cardinal John Ribat, Monsignor Donatien Bafuidinsoni, P. Paulus Wiryono, S.J., and Gregorio Díaz Mirabal. These panelists drew from their experience to speak about the effects that a changing climate has on the indigenous peoples of the world.

After lunch, the conference reconvened for the Third Panel: “JUDGING: Integral Ecology and the Church’s mission.” Speakers Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Monsignor Bernardito-Auza spoke on the role that the church can play to climate change and its impacts on indigenous peoples. This was followed by the Fourth Panel: “JUDGING: Criteria Offered by Indigenous Peoples to the Church for Cultural Ecology.” This panel focused more on the demands of indigenous people to the church for cultural ecology and the panelists included indigenous leaders such as Candido Mezúa, Sitio – Yana Aloema, Henri Muhiya, and Rodney Bordeaux. This panel was moderated by Marvin Sotelo, the Executive Secretary of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests.

The second day of the REPAM conference began with reflections from the previous day by Cardinal Charles Bo. This was followed by the Fifth Panel: “JUDGING: Features of the Integral Ecology to Respond to the Current Socio-Environmental and Socio-Political Crisis.” This panel featured discussions on Political Ecology, Environmental Ecology, and Spiritual Ecology respectively by Monsignor Alvaro Ramzzini, Monsignor Jean Claude Hollerich, S.J., and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. It was moderated by Sonia Olea of Cárita Española. After a brief recess, participants sat down for working sessions: “ACTING: The Experience of the REPAM as Territorialization of the Evangelii Gaudium and the Laudato Si: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology in the Pan Amazonia” and “ACTING: Work by groups by language: How to promote (or support) the territorialization of the Encylical Laudato Si in my own biome or territory and what concrete steps to take.” These sessions allowed the participants to discuss and apply what they had learned in the presentations.

The third day of the conference saw the Sixth Panel: “ACTING: Towards Networking Among Ecclesial Bodies, Non-Governmental Organization, Grassroots Organizations, and International Organizations to Respond to the Cry of the Earth and its Peoples.” Commissioner Antonía Urrejola Noguera, Father Roberto Jaramillo S.J., and Cardinal Reinhard Marx along with moderator Chloe Noël spoke about the forming and strengthening of networks to promote the needed changes identified throughout this conference. After a brief recess, the participants returned for final reflections and the formal conclusion. With the participants inspired from their discussions and prepared to apply the lessons learned to their work, the REPAM Conference closed with a Eucharist at the Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart.