Giving Compass' Take:

• Jan Rocha reports that Brazil's government is taking issue with a Catholic synod focused on conservation of the Amazon, which the government is working to undo. 

• How can a foreign, unelected power like the Catholic church conduct philanthropy without violating the sovereignty of elected governments? What will Brazil's Amazon policy mean for the health of the country and the world? 

• Learn about indigenous tribes working to protect the Amazon rainforest

A special three-week synod focused on the Amazon region due to be held at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, in October 2019 has antagonized the Bolsonaro government, which regards it as an interference in Brazil's national sovereignty.

The Synod has a seemingly innocuous sounding name: "Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology." However, for the Brazilian president's National Security Adviser General Augusto Heleno, head of the Internal Security Cabinet, the GSI, "it's worrying and we want to neutralize it."

Heleno worries that the progressive clergy will use the Synod to criticize the government's Amazon policies, which, though still taking shape, are likely to include a ban on all further demarcation of indigenous reserves, the opening of indigenous lands to mining concessions, and the building of numerous infrastructure mega-projects, including roads, railways, and dams—policies that could heavily impact conservation areas and indigenous reserves, and cause a big uptick in deforestation, putting Brazil's 2015 Paris Climate Agreement carbon reduction targets at risk.

Although today's Catholic church is no longer the powerful political force it once was, it seems the Bolsonaro government, elected with massive support from the evangelical churches, still is very concerned about its influence. Likewise, the retired generals and other high military officers who hold key posts in the government, who seem to be setting Bolsonaro's Amazon agenda. Many of them seem to maintain a mindset similar to that held during the 1964–85 dictatorship, where any foreign power that wields Amazon influence is suspected of plotting to internationalize the region, using indigenous territories as springboards.

The government's strategy for neutralizing the Amazon Synod reportedly includes the deploying of intelligence agents to monitor preparatory meetings and putting diplomatic pressure on the Italian government to intercede with the Vatican to avoid, or at least tone down, criticism of Brazil's Amazon policies. The government is also demanding the right to participate in the synod, an extremely unusual request.

Read the full article about the conflict over the Amazon by Jan Rocha at Pacific Standard.