Pope Francis has announced a special gathering of the synod of bishops focusing on the Amazon region.

Speaking at the end of a Mass in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said the synod, in 2019, would seek to identify new paths of evangelisation, especially for indigenous people who are “often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest”.

The rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America. Significant deforestation in the region has hurt indigenous populations and reduced biodiversity.

The Pope prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that “all the people of the Earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and, enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace.”

Rocco Palmo, writing on his blog Whispers in the Loggia, said the synod could be “the most charged moment of Francis’s push for an enhanced synodality”.

Centre stage, said Mr Palmo, would be the Pope’s friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 83-year-old head of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network. The Amazon region, with its dearth of priests, has often spurred calls for married clergy, Mr Palmo said.

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