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Brisbane Catholics hear the message on global challenge

Local efforts: A boy carrying a sack of recyclables walks through trash in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 4, the eve of World Environment Day. The theme of World Environment Day 2020 was “Celebrate Biodiversity.” Photo: CNS

A GROUP of Brisbane Catholics joined a Vatican official to launch a year dedicated to “ecological conversion in action”.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement hosted the Zoom event on World Environment Day recently to launch the Special Year of Laudato Si’ in Oceania.

People from throughout Oceania participated in group discussions after hearing Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam, of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, explain what the anniversary year was about.

Pope Francis had launched the anniversary year on May 24 to mark the fifth anniversary of the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).

Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell, who chairs Brisbane archdiocese’s Living Laudato Si’ steering committee, was among participants.

Fr Kureethadam, co-ordinator of the sector of Ecology and Creation within the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, said it was unusual to have a whole year dedicated to an encyclical only five years after its publication.

He said part of the reason was because of the urgency of the need to act on the Laudato Si’ message to “respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”.

“Laudato Si’ came in 2015, a beautiful, inspiring encyclical, but we are a bit concerned that we are still only in the first ‘orbit’, that we need to raise the orbit and lift Laudato Si’,” he said.

“In the Vatican we don’t speak anymore of climate change; we speak of the climate crisis, climate emergency …”

Fr Kureethadam referred to some of the “manifestations” of this – “fires in Australia, sea level rises in Oceania, the desertification, the floods in East Africa … all because the temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Centigrade”.

“Scientists are telling us that if you go beyond 1.5 degrees Centigrade it’s going to be catastrophic,” he said.

“So why is this special anniversary so important? Because we need to act …

“And along with the cry of the Earth, there is the cry of the poor.

“Laudato Si’ speaks of caring for our common home, and in a sense we are a common family.

“It’s not just the home of the Earth that is in danger; it’s also the homes of so many of our brothers and sisters.”

Fr Kureethadam said “a third cry” was not so clear in Laudato Si’, “and this is again a sign of the times – God speaks through children”.

“And over the last couple of years, the children have been getting onto the streets and (the message) is very clear, ‘Don’t Mess with My Future’,” he said (showing a photograph of a child holding a placard during a street march.

“So these are the cries we need to listen to – the cry of the Earth, the cry of the poor and the cry of the children.”

Pope Francis, in announcing the anniversary year, said it would stress “ecological conversion in action” and that the year would be followed by a seven-year program focusing on a different group each year – families, schools, universities, parishes/dioceses, hospitals, businesses/farms, and religious orders.

Fr Kureethadam said the Vatican was proposing that groups adopt LSGs (Laudato Si’ Goals) “in the spirit of integral ecology”.

The goals would form a response to the cry of the Earth – “renewable energy, reducing fossil fuels, protecting biodiversity, access to clean water for all – all that is entailed in the physical challenge – and the cry of the poor – defence of human life from conception to death and all forms of life and of all people; and with special attention to vulnerable groups like indigenous communities, migrants, children at risk to slavery etc …”

“These are the two pillars of LS – education and spirituality – recovery of a religious vision of God’s creation …,” Fr Kureethadam said.

“The crown of all of this is that we walk together.

“The emphasis is on community involvement and participatory action to care for creation at the local, regional, national and international levels.”

Bishop Howell, in responding to Fr Kureethadam’s presentation, said he appreciated his message.

“I’ve always felt that we’ve got a wonderful action plan in Laudato Si’ but at some stages I’ve always felt that we lacked the action plan,” he said.

“We say, ‘This is wonderful, we have so much to do, we must do this … How do we do it?’

“So I feel Fr Josh and the dicastery have given us a pathway and I think that’s good potential for us for it enables us to focus year by year on something that is practical and what we can work on.

“We live in a time where I think our country’s been given a big wake-up call in recent years, especially at the beginning of this year through the bushfires, the droughts and the floods, etc, etc.

“So I think that people are moving a little bit more now to being a little bit more tuned in to this.”

Bishop Howell said “a whole-of-Church approach” was needed.

“It just can’t be a few people just on the fringe saying, ‘Yeah, we must get into that sometime …’,” he said.

“It’s got to be a whole-of-Church approach, and that’s challenging because we face so many things that are on at the moment.

“The COVID-19 thing has taken us in another direction and, when we come out of that, in a way, we’re going to see life differently, I believe, and hopefully this kind of thing is going to be at the forefront of who we are in saying that there are important things that we need to address and be true to.”

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