The Pan-Amazon Synod of Bishops takes place in Rome from 6 to 27 October. Pope Francis hopes that the universal Church will be invigorated through an encounter with the Church of the peripheries, but critics see it as the latest battleground in their campaign to stifle his reforms
Days before the Amazon synod was due to get under way, the Vatican announced that the traditionalist Catholic association, the Heralds of the Gospel, was being placed under special measures. Pope Francis has appointed a commissioner, the Brazilian Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, to oversee the controversial group whose problems are said to relate to governance, formation and fund-raising. That wording could be read as code for abuse of power in an organisation which offers teenage boys special retreats and internship programmes, and whose lay members practise celibacy and wear medieval-looking dark brown tunics with a large cross on their chest, and black riding boots.
This is more than the reining in of a traditionalist group (the Vatican is keen to stress it is not being punished). The Heralds are symbolic of a movement – with significant support in Rome and in parts of the Catholic media – seeking to undermine the synod by declaring it to be imbued with pagan, anti-Christian thought, and even suggesting that it is inspired by demonic forces.