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Pope Francis has invited a bishop who works with indigenous peoples in the Amazonian rainforest to assist him with his forthcoming encyclical on the environment.
Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in northern Brazil, met the Pope on 4 April. He has been a leading advocate for the rights of Brazil’s indigenous peoples for more than 30 years and is president of the Church’s Indigenous Missionary Council, CIMI.
The Pope had wanted first-hand information concerning the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest and the threat to the local indigenous population, Bishop Kräutler told the Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten. “I first of all informed the Pope that the constitutional rights of the indigenous peoples in Brazil were now once again massively being called into question,” Bishop Kräutler said and added that he had given the Pope a thick dossier on the more than 90 indigenous peoples who live without contact with the surrounding population and who are particularly under threat because there is no official documentation on their very existence.
While in Rome, Bishop Kräutler also spent several hours with the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson. “Cardinal Turkson is preparing a preliminary paper for the papal encyclical (on the environment). I urgently asked him to include the concerns of the indigenous peoples in Brazil and the rainforest in this preliminary text. The cardinal has given me his private email address and asked me to send him the relevant data,” Bsishop Kräutler said.
Asked in which language a Brazilian bishop spoke to a Pope from Latin America, Kräutler replied, “On the whole Spanish but when I couldn’t immediately think of the Spanish expression I was able to revert to Portuguese, because a Pope from Argentina naturally also understands Portuguese”.