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Vatican launches initiative to protect the Amazon and its vulnerable communities

Roughly 20 percent of the Amazon rain-forest has been lost. It's a daunting figure, which according to experts is linked to massive mineral exploitation, the planting of crops that don't go well with the land and invasive livestock. The Vatican is concerned and it's speaking out.  MICHEL ROY Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis "The Amazon along with the forest of the Congo, are perhaps the most valuable resources on the planet. Other major forests like Borneo have practically disappeared. So now, it can no longer do its part to counteract climate change. We have the responsibility to do something to stop this.â?  MAURICIO LOPEZ OROPEZA Executive Secretary, Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network  "This is the source of  20 percent of the planet's unfrozen fresh water. Here we have five bottles of water. If I take away one of them, someone is going to be left without drinking water. We have to ask ourselves what that water will be used for, because it's vital for many people.â?  It's an effect that's already being felt. Almost 40 million people live in the region, out of which about 3 million are indigenous. MSGR. PEDRO BARRETO Chairman, Justice and Solidarity â?? CELAM "The Amazon River which runs more than 4300 miles is not just something on a map or something geographical. It's the home of roughly 3 million indigenous people from different tribes and origins.â? MAURICIO LOPEZ OROPEZA Executive Secretary, Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network  "Villagers have a different perspective on this situation, but the reality is they are being displaced. Many are losing not just territories, but even more, they're losing their identities.â?  To speak out and take action, the Vatican is joining forces to help these communities. Back in September it launched the Pan Amazon Ecclesial Network.  MSGR. PEDRO BARRETO Chairman, Justice and Solidarity - CELAM "The Church has been present for over 500 years there, but everyone pretty much kept to themselves. This network is a way to join all parties and unite forces. When that happens it's a lot more difficult for these huge companies to come in to drain the natural resources.â?  The group will be in Rome for a few days to discuss specific ways to help the Amazon and its vulnerable communities.  This network is a new way to link countries and Church institutions from different countries, as together, they fight for the protection of Mother Nature.  JMB/KLH  AA VM -PR Up: MPI