Friday, March 8, 2013

“Sent To The Frontiers, Under The Roman Pontiff”.

Reduction of Our Lady of Saint Ana
The South American country has been at the center of one of the biggest events of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The Society of Jesus and the World Youth Day (WYD), in fact, have worked together for months at an exhibition on " Jesuit Reducciones" (Missions) in Paraguay. The exhibition speaks of the past and present, of how the Jesuits have been and are “sent to the frontiers, under the Roman Pontiff”.

The "reducciones" of Paraguay (1609-1769) were settlements of Guarani Indians promoted by the fathers of the Society of Jesus in the lands conquered by Portugal and Spain, with the desire to preserve their identity as people and vassals of the Crown.  The Indians, who lived according to their ancient customs, in the mountains, in small very distant groups, , came together through the initiative of the Jesuits to form settlements of about 5,000 people each. “Many will remember the “reducciones” in the film “Mission”, directed by Roland Joffe (1986), starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons”, observes the Catholic news agency Zenit.

The reducciones” have a complex context which during their exposure is analyzed in greater detail.  It has to do with the '"encomienda", a colonizing system which often disguised slavery, and the strong desire of evangelizing missionaries and collaborators who, in their mission, were not always able to respect the identity of the Guaraní, but managed to defend their freedom and dignity, because on many occasions “reducciones” were the only way to safeguard them.  Up to 30 “reducciones” of Guaraní peoples exited, stretching between the Parana and Uruguay rivers, in a vast territory that included regions that today are part of Paraguay and also Argentina, the south and south-east of Brazil, the south-east of Bolivia and Uruguay. The Jesuit “reducciones” did not stop with the Guaraní, because there were also people like the Moxos (1682) and Chiquitos (1691) of Bolivia, the Maynas (1637) of Ecuador and Peru and the Orinoco (1730) of Venezuela.

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