Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, speaks at a news conference to discuss the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 3, 2019. Also pictured is Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes said the working document for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is not official church teaching, but rather a way for bishops to listen to the local church’s concerns.

The working document, which was drafted after input was received from bishops’ conferences and local communities, “isn’t a document of the synod, it is for the synod,” Cardinal Hummes, relator general of the synod, told journalists Oct. 3.


“It is the voice of the local church, the voice of the church in the Amazon: of the church, of the people, of the history and of the very earth, the voice of the earth,” he said.

During a briefing at the Vatican press office, Cardinal Hummes and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, responded to a journalist’s question regarding criticisms against the synod and its working document, also known as the “Instrumentum Laboris.”

Scheduled for Oct. 6-27, the synod will focus on “Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology.”

In June, German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller published an essay in which he accused the synod’s working document of being heretical because it refers to the rainforest as a place of divine revelation. In the essay, Cardinal Brandmuller also criticized the synod for its plans to get involved in social and environmental affairs.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, also launched similar accusations in an eight-page letter released Sept. 12, in which they cited “serious theological errors and heresies” in the synod’s working document.

However, Cardinal Baldisseri said, “if there is a cardinal or a bishop who does not agree, who sees that there is content that does not correspond (to church teaching), well then, in the meantime I would say that it is necessary to listen and not judge because it isn’t a magisterial document.”

The secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops added that while he believes that everyone should be free to express their disagreement, he also felt it was inappropriate “that a judgment should be made about a document that isn’t a pontifical document.”

“This is just a working document that will be given to the synod fathers,” he said. “And that will be the basis to begin the work and build the final document from zero. It’s also known as a ‘martyred document.'”

Cardinal Hummes told journalists that the purpose of the synod’s working document stemmed from the church’s desire to listen to the local church in the Amazon.

“The church didn’t do it for the sake of doing it to only ignore them,” the Brazilian cardinal said. “No! If it was done, it was so that (the church) could to listen to them. This is the synodal path: to seriously listen.”