By Tania Avila Meneses
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim…. Yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” -Acts 2:4, 11
In Querida Amazonía, Pope Francis’ heart is beginning to beat as one with the indigenous peoples and reflect our own way of thinking. Within indigenous thought, there are many languages by which to communicate. One form of language is dreaming. It is very fitting that Pope Francis structured the exhortation into four different dreams for the Amazon.
For the Quechua, and other indigenous peoples, dreams are a way to make a plan for life. It is a map by which to construct realities. There are also dreams that can put life at risk, which then need to be “cleansed” by the community.
Rites are another form of language. At the synod, there was the procession from the Basilica to St. Peter’s Square whereby a canoe was carried from hand to hand, accompanied by a net supported by many people. This net is an expression of how the Church is walking with the Amazon.
Symbols are another powerful form of communication in indigenous cultures. A net can also symbolize a change of thinking over time. This change in the Church has been possible through the process of weaving together Laudato Si’, the Working Document, the Final Document and ultimately, Querida Amazonia. This process will continue beyond the Exhortation.
Another powerful symbol at the Synod was the Amazon River. A river doesn’t separate us; it unites us. It leads us from one place to another in journeys that aren’t always easy and tranquil. Another symbol was a table. A table represents a place for dialogue and support, a space for us to learn through mutual listening.
For intercultural dialogue to succeed, each group needs to look for threads of knowledge and understanding that they can weave together. We need to understand each other’s cultural symbols to allow for the possibility for dialogue. This requires careful training.
Song is also a language, an expression of the voice and culture of each community. It is an instrument that can convene, denounce, and propose. In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis references the songs of the Amazon, in which beauty of life in the Amazon is revealed: “If we enter into communion with the forest, our voices will easily blend with its own and become a prayer ‘as we rest in the shade of an ancient eucalyptus, our prayer for light joins in the song of the eternal foliage.’” - Pope Francis quoting Iquitos-based Poet Sui Yun [QA 56]. ▪
About the Author
Tania Avila Meneses is a Quechua indigenous theologian and official auditor at the Synod. She is Bolivia coordinator for the Amerindia network and works for the Maryknoll Mission Center in Latin America based in Cochabamba. The above is a summary of her analysis of the pope’s exhortation on the Synod.