Cardinal Pedro Barreto: “All social actors must come together to save the planet”

Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno Ricardo, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru, is a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, whose main mandate is to “promote justice and peace in the world, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church.” The Council was created by Pope Paul VI in 1967. Archbishop Barreto is also President of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM) and vice-president of CEAS, the Peruvian Bishops’ Social Action Commission, an organization that Development and Peace – Caritas Canada has been supporting for a number of years.

Cardinal Barreto is actively working to promote social justice in his diocese, which is facing severe pollution caused by an American foundry in La Oroya, considered to be one of the 10 most polluted places on the planet. High levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals have seeped into the soil, air, and even in local residents’ blood.

In this interview, he is counting on all social actors to work together to save the planet. As such, among the many responsibilities that are part of his ministry, being vice-president of REPAM has led him to encourage and inspire the path towards the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region (site in Spanish), which will take place in October 2019.

He believes that this Synod will seek an offering of care and concern for life and cultures worldwide, but the Synod should also be followed up by very concrete actions in the seven million square kilometers that make up Amazonia.

Many challenges can be felt in the Amazonian territory, especially in the face of the acts of violence in the territories where the lives of Indigenous people, and social and religious leaders are being violated. In the view of the cardinal, all this comes back to the Paschal mystery: “It is the passion, death and resurrection” and, indeed, “we have to risk life like Jesus did.”


The solution cannot come from the Church alone

  • What challenges do you see for the Pan-Amazonian region as cardinal?

I am not taking on these challenges alone as cardinal, but as a Church, and I am convinced — as Pope Francis says — that the Church is not going to provide the technical solution, it has to come from all social actors, who should unite in a single common vision to save this planet, because global warming is causing negative effects throughout the world and no one is disputing that anymore.

In that sense, I feel very calm, but I know that I will not see the solutions that have to happen in the medium term. We have to start now, but in the medium term, it will take 10 or 15 years to see the effects of what is forecast.


Care of life and cultures

  • How can the face of the Amazon be reflected in the world?

The person who uttered that phrase was Pope Francis, but the Amazonia, in the first place, speaks to us of an impressive natural wealth, of biodiversity. Secondly, it also tells us about ancestral cultures that teach us to live in harmony with one another and in harmony with nature – naturally, with exceptions, because we do not have to mythologize the Amazonian Indigenous people. But the reality is that they are in general the ones who care for the water, land and air, because they live in that area and there is an inherent ecological spirituality in their own cultures.

We are talking about the Amazonian Synod, which will take place in October of next year, in the sense of it being an offering of care and concern for life and cultures worldwide, but it is also based on the very concrete fact that greater Amazonia consists of seven and a half million square kilometres and that is what we are working on.


Risking one’s life for Amazonia

  • Regarding the assassinations of leaders in Amazonia, what is your message to support the cry of those who are suffering?

This situation refers us to the Paschal mystery of Jesus: it is the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Amazonia is a very appetizing region for the boundless hungers of investors and the vast natural resources there tell us about the very heavy investments being made by those who hold economic power. The only thing they are clearly interested in is having contacts that enable them to extract greater wealth for themselves at the cost of squandering natural resources and ancestral cultures. 

In the face of the murders of these brothers and sisters — events that are occurring increasingly often now – on the one hand it is part of a painful process of purification, but on the other hand we have to risk life as Jesus did and this is what is happening with our brothers and sisters.


The testimony of Carlos Riudavets

  • Concerning the murder of the Jesuit priest Carlos Riudavets in Yamaquenza (an Amazonian region in northeastern Peru): What can we make of this terrible act of violence?

He was a Jesuit companion of mine who was at the Valentín Salegui de Fe y Alegría college for 38 years, in Yamaquenza, a district of Chiriaco in Bagua province, in the department of Amazonas. 

Before I was in Huancayo, I was the Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jaén, where that territory is located. His whole life was centered around a holistic educational approach for the Indigenous populations of the five rivers in the region, and in a way,  we can say that Carlos Riudavets gave his life, as a priest and a Jesuit, to further the education of the Indigenous Awajus and Wampis.


Source : Vida Nueva September 26, 2018