A woman from the Pataxo Ha-ha-hae tribe looks at dead fish near the Paraopeba River after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed near São Joaquim de Bicas, Brazil, Jan. 28, 2019. (CNS photo/Adriano Machado, Reuters)
A woman from the Pataxo Ha-ha-hae tribe looks at dead fish near the Paraopeba River after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed near São Joaquim de Bicas, Brazil, Jan. 28, 2019. (CNS photo/Adriano Machado, Reuters)
SÃO PAULO (CNS) — A Catholic prelature in Brazil's Amazon has decreed that its parishes will not accept donations from any person or company that displaces minorities or damages the earth.

Bishop José Ionilton Lisboa de Oliveira of Itacoatiara has prohibited parishes, pastoral communities, groups and movements linked to the prelature -- similar to a diocese — from receiving financial resources from those he says "damage the Amazon."

"We decree, for an indefinite period, that in parishes, communities, pastorals, groups and movements of the Prelature of Itacoatiara, we will not receive financial resources, in currency or other goods, from politicians, loggers, mining companies, oil exploration companies and gas, which contribute to deforestation and the expulsion of Indigenous people, quilombolas (Afro-descendant communities), riverside communities and small farmers from their lands" says the document.

The decree, addressed to priests and coordinators of Catholic groups within the prelature, reproduces several quotes from "Querida Amazonia," Pope Francis' 2020 apostolic exhortation after the 2019 world Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

One of those quotes considers "the possibility that members of the church have been part of networks of corruption, at times to the point of agreeing to keep silent in exchange for economic assistance for ecclesial works."

Bishop Oliveira told Catholic News Service Pope Francis recommends "special attention be paid to the provenance of donations or other kinds of benefits, as well as to investments made by ecclesiastical institutions or individual Christians."

"Our goal was to bring to the local church a greater awareness that we must be committed to the Amazon. Our prelature includes 99,000 square km (38,224 square miles) of forest area," Bishop Oliveira told CNS.

He said at first the decree was only about suspending resources given by politicians, but he decided to make the decree also include companies.

"When I arrived at the prelature (2017), there was already a lumber mill installed here. After a few months we started to hear (negative) stories about the mill and decided not to accept funds from the company anymore," he told CNS.

"Now, more recently, a gas exploration company arrived, and we agreed with the clergy that we would not seek or accept any resource fund from this company either," he added.

The last straw for issuing the decree, he says, came this year, when candidates in the October election or their representatives were offering money to help local communities.

People "wanted to know whether to accept the resources or not. So, we thought it best to make public that the prelature this year would not receive funds from any politician, whether he was already elected or a candidate," he said.

Bishop Oliveira said he hopes the decree provokes a debate in the prelature about issues from the Amazon synod.

"We want to make people want to know more about what was written in this document," he said.

However, Bishop Oliveira said he is aware of the difficulty of monitoring such donations.

"Of course, we cannot analyze every contribution or personal donation. We are not talking about inspecting every donation, penny-by-penny, given to these communities. The prelature's goal is to not receive resources from politicians who show up on an election year and 'very generously' offer help our communities, when they have never appeared here before," he said.

"My intention with the decree was to create a new consciousness in the local church. We are proposing not to seek or receive funds from companies and people that we know, in advance, are damaging the Amazon," he said.

"We have a commitment to life, and life also includes preserving Mother Nature," he said.