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Rome Reports

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Indigenous missionary defines controversial figure of pregnant “Our Lady of the Amazon”

Throughout the month of the Amazon synod, indigenous people are exhibiting their customs and traditions in Rome. 

One display in particular is right in front of the Vatican, in Santa Maria Traspontina church. 

Fr. Roberto Rojas, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, is one of the event organizers. He has spent more than a decade working with indigenous populations in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and his native Peru. He says this exhibition aligns with Pope Francis', Laudato si'. 

Synod Father and missionary (Peru)
“Pope Francis says in Laudato si' that everything is connected. For us, men and women, to be human is to be in relationship. So if we are to be in relationship, the indigenous teach us exactly that. They teach we are first in relationship with God, second with nature and third of all with ourselves.”

He says, out of all the items present at this exhibition, one item in particular is very symbolic of the Amazon for the people. 

Synod Father and missionary (Peru)
This figure is the Virgin Mary of the Amazon, Our Lady of the Amazon. It's a devotion that started in the indigenous communities. They carved in wood an image of a Blessed Mother, who is pregnant. She is the Virgin Mary, and we have called her Our Lady of the Amazon.

He assures that to the indigenous people, this image does not only remind them of the Blessed Mother, but also of God. 

Synod Father and missionary (Peru)
“One of the things that we have to understand with this sculpture is that it is a nice symbol to understand that God, who is both father and mother, gives us the Amazon, not only for a group or for a country; it is for the world.”

Around 20 indigenous leaders from the Amazon basin are in Rome, explaining the importance of the world's largest rainforest to bishops through exhibitions, like this one. 

Fr. Roberto said these events are meant to be a place of prayer, relationship, listening and understanding. In this way, they can share their indigenous traditions, including their interpretation of the Blessed Mother. 

Melissa Butz