VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Sunday it was time for “predators” to stop plundering the Earth for financial gain, holding up the “scarred face of the Amazon” as a warning.
The poor are “threatened by predatory models of development,” the pope said at a Mass at the end of a three-week Vatican assembly, or synod, on the Pan-Amazonian region.
“The mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth: we have seen it in the scarred face of the Amazon region,” he said.
“We have often heard the phrase ‘later is too late’: that cannot remain a slogan,” Francis said during the Angelus prayer after the Mass.
Some 184 Catholic bishops had gathered at the Vatican with representatives of indigenous peoples, experts and nuns, to discuss a multitude of regional concerns, from the destruction of the rainforest and the global climate emergency, to land-grabbing and the exploitation of indigenous peoples.
Francis denounced those wielding power who look down on others: “considering them backward and of little worth, they despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy their lands, and usurp their goods.”
And he admitted that, “even in the Church,” there were those who scoff at the poor or silence them as inconvenient.
The pope warned that those who prey on or discard the vulnerable and weak will pay a price eventually, saying that the poor are “the gatekeepers of heaven.”
“They are the ones who will open wide or not the gates of eternal life,” he said.
The bishops issued a list of recommendations Saturday on the last day of the assembly, including an appeal for Francis to make damaging the environment a sin.
They also suggested married “men of proven virtue” could be allowed to join the priesthood in remote corners of the Amazon, where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests.