JACQUI Remond is enjoying the challenge of her role in the Church’s mapping of a post-COVID world – including her late-night connections with Rome.
Ms Remond, based in Sydney, is co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and a Laudato Si’ consultant, and the Rome discussions are part of her involvement with the Vatican COVID-19 Commission.
Pope Francis established the commission in March to confront the challenges the world was facing through the pandemic and would face after it.
Ms Remond was invited to be one of the co-ordinators of an ecology taskforce within one of the commission’s five working groups.
When the commission was launched in March, the Vatican said the goal of the commission, led by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was “to express the Church’s concern and love for the entire human family in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The combined work of the Ecology, Economy, Security and Health Taskforces was to include “an analysis and a reflection on the socio-economic and culture challenges of the future and proposed guidelines to address them”.
The Vatican COVID-19 Commission is divided into five working groups focused on a specific aspect of the pandemic.
The first working group, dedicated to “listening and supporting local churches”, was to co-operate with Caritas Internationalis, the office of the papal almoner, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and the Vatican pharmacy.
The second, which is the one Ms Remond works within, is focused on research and the study of the pandemic, and reflecting on society and the world post-coronavirus in co-ordination with the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Cardinal Peter Turkson told Vatican News that working group was “to connect the best minds in the areas of ecology, economy, health and public security”.
“We need the concreteness of science, and we need prophecy and creativity,” Cardinal Turkson said.
Other working groups were focusing on communication, relations with other countries to assist and share valuable research information, and financing the commission’s relief efforts.
Cardinal Turkson later said Pope Francis’ vision of “integral human development” and “integral ecology” involved identifying the connections between the condition of human beings and the condition of the environment.
He said while Christians were right to be increasingly focused on “the cry of the Earth” and how environmental destruction impacted human life, with the COVID-19 pandemic “we must listen to the cry of the poor”, especially those risking starvation, the unemployed, and migrants and refugees.
Ms Remond said the second working group “has a purpose around analysis to orientate decision-making and to support design of new systems”.
“It’s that whole strategy about reorienting our human systems so that they’re more in line with the natural ecosystems of the world, and serving people and planet,” she said.
She is one of three co-ordinators of the ecology taskforce within that working group, along with Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam, who is co-ordinator of the Ecology and Creation sector within the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, and Chiara Martinelli, a senior advisor with CIDSE, a network of social justice organisations in Europe and North America.
Apart from ecology, the other three taskforces were focused on economy, security and health.
The ecology taskforce involves people from many different fields including scientists, theologians and Church bodies like UISG, Caritas Internationalis, CIDSE, the Global Catholic Climate Movement and interfaith partners such as the Parliament of World Religions.
Ms Remond said it had been a joy to be involved in the commission’s work.
“It’s meant some late nights, as you can imagine with the time difference to Rome,” she said.
“But it’s been an absolute joy to be part of the dialogue, to help shape that dialogue and listen deeply to other people and the contribution that we are being called to make in the world at the moment.”
She said Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) was particularly relevant to the work and the goal to have seven-year Laudato Si’ plans emerge for the whole Church.
“I think Laudato Si’ is such a rich and meaningful teaching for us but we never want it to just sit at that academic, intellectual level,” she said.
“It’s so about applying Laudato Si’; it’s about implementing it, and it’s about seeing how we can embody and embed it as best as we can in a relational way and as swiftly as we can in response to the current crises we face.”
Ms Remond said the commission’s objective could be summed up in three words – “prepare the future” – “and essentially it’s about encouraging a new imagination of the possible with the realism that only the Gospel can give”.