Cardinal Hummes to visit Guyana this month for REPAM

April 2, 2016

The highest-ranking Vatican official ever to visit Guyana will arrive on April 20th for a three day visit.  Cardinal Claudio Hummes from Brazil is a former archbishop of Sao Paulo and is currently the president of the Commission for Amazonia of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. The main purpose of the Cardinal’s visit to Guyana is to present the vision of REPAM, which is the Amazonian Church Network formed in 2014. This also includes discussing the relevance of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si (Praise Be To You) to conserving the Amazon and helping the poor in the area. It ties environmental degradation directly to poverty and says the continued abuse of the natural world has the greatest effect on residents of the developing world and serves to keep them at a disadvantage.

The Amazonian Church Network is an attempt to bring together the work of the Catholic Church throughout the Amazonian Region. The network is made up of the nine countries that share part of the Amazon forest. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are three out of those nine and as yet are not really “on board” because of the lack of a common language with the other countries of South America. It is expected that the Cardinal’s visit will begin a dialogue to explore how the Church in these three countries can recognize the important contribution we can make to this collaborative mission.

  • The Amazon territory is the largest tropical forest in the world.
  • It covers six million square kilometres and includes the territories of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil.
  • It is home to 2,779,478 indigenous people, comprising
    • 390 indigenous tribes and
    • 137 isolated (uncontacted) peoples with their valuable ancestral cultures
    • 240 spoken languages belonging to 49 linguistic families.

At the launch of REPAM Peruvian Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, S.J., who is also President of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Episcopal Council, explained that the Amazon is “a territory that is devastated and threatened by the concessions made by States to transnational corporations. Large-scale mining projects, monoculture and climate change place its lands and natural environment at great risk”, leading to the destruction of cultures, undermining the selfdetermination of peoples and above all affronting Christ incarnate in the people who live there (indigenous and riparian peoples, peasant farmers, afro-descendants and urban populations).

REPAM was founded as “God’s answer to this heartfelt and urgent need to care for the life of people so they are able to live in harmony with nature, starting from the widespread and varied presence of members and structures of the Church in Pan-Amazonia”. Described by many as the Pope’s greatest friend and the most influential cardinal, Cardinal Hummes was sitting next to Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel when he was elected in 2013. He whispered to the newly-elected Pope “Don’t forget the poor!” and Pope Francis said that immediately he remembered St. Francis of Assisi and “the name Francis came into my heart”. When the newly-elected Pope Francis appeared on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica that same night shortly after his election, Cardinal Hummes was among the cardinals who accompanied the new pope and stood beside him at his immediate lef on the balcony. Planning is being done to work out the details of the Cardinal’s visit to Guyana. ™