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The leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, has called for an end to the looting of the Amazon basin, by closing an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops that discussed the challenges facing the Church in the region.
One of the main themes of the three-week synod was the environmental protection of the Amazon and respect for its indigenous peoples and their cultures.
In his sermon at a closing mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis criticized those who consider indigenous peoples "backward and of little value" rather than acknowledging what their cultures can teach others.
"They despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy their lands and usurp their assets. How much supposed superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today!" He said as reported by Reuters.
"The mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the looting of other people and the infliction of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister Earth: we have seen it on the scarred face of the Amazon region," said the Supreme Pontiff.
Other proposals of the assembly
The landmark proposal could lead to a historic change in the Church's centuries-old discipline of celibacy. The pope will consider all the proposals, including an expanded role for women, when writing his own document, known as an apostolic exhortation. He said he hopes to have it ready by the end of the year.
At the mass, which was attended by indigenous people from the Amazon, Pope Francis also appeared to strike at conservatives who attacked parts of the synod's working document as heretics.
Opponents of Pope Francis, inspired by the writings of two cardinals, held several side events during the synod. They were especially outraged by the use of an indigenous statue of a pregnant woman at an inaugural event, saying it was pagan.
The Pope apologized for what he considered an insult to indigenous people after ultra-conservative Catholic militants stole replicas of the statue and dumped them into the Tiber River.
In his sermon, Pope Francis spoke of "those masters of the art of self-justification" and of those who seek "self-canonization."