Pope Francis met with 40 indigenous people from the Amazon on Thursday October 17th in the Vatican as part of a tour across Europe. The group included representatives participating in the synod and others who were in Rome for synod-related events.
As part of a campaign to defend their rights, indigenous leaders denounced abuses from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration, asking for help so that the Amazonian people can take care of their lands and protect their waters.
This meeting happened behind the scenes of the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, which began on October 6th and runs until the 27th, according to the Brazilian Outlet O Globo.
According to the Vatican press office, the meeting began with indigenous leaders thanking the pope for convoking the synod and asking his help in securing "a serene and happy life for their people, taking care of their land and protecting their waters so that their descendants may enjoy them."
The pontiff referred to the dangers which are currently affecting the Amazon rainforests due to what he called "new forms of colonisation."
The indiginous group "brought presents, signs and letters that the pope put in his bag made of natural fibres."
As the gift-giving came to an end, a member of the group placed an indigenous feather headdress on the pontiff's head while Francis smiled approvingly.
Dona Zenilda, who assumed a leadership role with the Xucuru people of Northeast Brazil, urged indigenous people from North and South America to unite in honouring the sacrifices of their martyrs by defending their land.
"We have to walk with Pope Francis and not leave him alone," she said. "And we must all pray together because only together can we protect our mother Earth."
A few hours after the meeting with the pope, the Amazonian indigenous people joined indigenous leaders from the United States and Canada for a dialogue on common challenges and threats their people face.
Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who accompanied the Canadian delegation, said that he hoped the gathering in the Vatican would give birth to "conversations between North and South, conversations between indigenous and non-indigenous people, who desperately need to hear each other."