Participants carried objects symbolic of Amazonian culture, among them a large canoe, bowls with food, indigenous musical instruments, along with the controversial, and now familiar, image of a naked pregnant woman, which has been described variously as a Marian image, as an indigenous religious symbol of Pachamama, or Mother Easter, or as a symbol of life.
As the stations began, participants placed on the ground the canoe, the image of the woman, and photographs of the "martyrs of the Amazon," among whom was Saint Oscar Romero, the only one of the persons represented who has been canonized by the Catholic Church.
The other persons identified as "Amazonian martyrs" were Sister Cleusa Coelho, Marçal de Souza, Josimo Morales, Fr. Vicente Cañas, Sister Inés Arango, Galdino Pataxó, Fr. Alcides Jiménez, Sister Dorothy Stang, Msgr. Alejandro Labaka, Fr. Ezequiel Ramín, Father Rodolfo Lunkenbein, Father Simao Bororo and Chico Mendes.
After initial chants, the meaning of the celebration was explained: "Remember the martyrs of the way, the lives given by the Kingdom of life. We also remember our lives, the joys and hopes that brought us here, and the sadness and anguish of our people of Panamazonía and the earth. "
Then, the smoke of some plants that burned in a bowl was spread among the attendees with a feather.
After this initial ceremony, the "Way of the Cross" itself began with its 14 stations, plus an added 15th station dedicated to the resurrection. A large wooden cross, in which a rosary and photographs of the martyrs were nailed, headed the entourage.
The 14 stations were adapted from the traditional Stations of the Cross, and each station was accompanied by a phrase or theme: "human rights," "the great projects of 'development' in the Amazon Basin," "reconciliation," "encounter," "the cultures of Panamazonía," " a call for all," " the destruction of nature," and others.
At the end of each station, a different person read a brief reflection. Among the messages that were conveted was thatt "Mother Earth weeps for the excessive exploitation that is committed in the 9 countries of the Panamazonía."
Forgiveness was also requested "for the mistakes made as a Church and as humanity; especially through of the abuses of colonization, the systematic violence to human rights and the ethnocide carried out of so many peoples throughout the continent."
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One reflection warned that "scientists and environmentalists presage darkness and shadows of death for our land if we do not stop the indiscriminate use of resources." Therefore, "the call as Church is to announce the Gospel of Jesus and denounce the abuses that Sister Mother Earth experiences."
Upon arriving at St. Peter's Square, while meditating on the final station, some participants lay on the ground, upon the photographs of the so-called martyrs of the Amazon, pretending to be dead. At the end of the 15th station, dedicated to the Resurrection, the people lying on the ground rose, conveying resurrection from the dead, and raising their hands to heaven in thanksgiving.
Finally, one woman's face was painted with Amazonian signs, and adorned her with a crown of feathers, and then raised overhead in a canoe, amid songs and applause from participants.
A version of this story was first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.