The Return of the King
NOTE: This the first of Robert Royal’s reports from Rome about the ongoing Amazon Synod.
Pope Francis is fond of saying that “synod” means “walking together.” In the right circumstances, it might mean that (though usually it just means a “meeting”). In the wrong circumstances, it can take on the less happy meanings of the original Greek synodos – like the “meeting” that happens when two parties face each other in a courtroom – or two armies clash.
That troubling meaning of “synod” has been quite evident in past weeks. Before the Amazon Synod even started – the bishops, vested in green, joined the pope for Mass at St. Peter’s yesterday and begin their work today – there was a swirl of passionate claims and counterclaims, the likes of which have probably never been seen in Rome at this kind of an event.
Quite a few Catholics have been appalled at the synod’s strange mixture of changes to the priesthood and roles of women with ecological concerns – and openings to pagan superstitions. And rightly so.
On Saturday, Pope Francis along with Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (both leaders of the synod) attended an indigenous ritual, a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens. Participants danced around a mandala, spread soil from “symbolic places,” and bowed to two female fertility figures. A male figure with erect penis lay nearby. [Author’s Note: In the days since this article appeared, there has been same debate about whether it’s a penis or arm in the male figure. No Vatican voices has clarified this point, which leaves the ritual still quite puzzling.]