THE Vatican has declared a “Special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year” starting almost immediately, and a seven-year action plan emphasising “ecological conversion”, and safeguarding and care for the earth.
“I’m delighted, and it brings great blessings as well,” Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt said, describing the measures as a visionary step.
“It is a great opportunity to work in a concerted way to taking action that deeply integrates the vision of Pope Francis that he shared in Laudato Si’ into our archdiocesan life.”
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announced the special anniversary year from May 24, 2020, to May 24, 2021 just as the Catholic world started a fifth anniversary commemoration of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and ecology.
There are week-long global events to mark the anniversary, although more digitally than originally planned because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Pope Francis has invited Catholics to pray and act to help create a better future.
The dicastery said the Laudato Si’ message was “just as prophetic today as it was in 2015… truly, COVID-19 has made clear how deeply we are all interconnected and interdependent”.
“As we begin to envision a post-COVID world, we need above all an integral approach as everything is closely interrelated and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis,” the dicastery’s statement said.
As part of those plans, the dicastery is expected to officially outline a multi-year “Laudato Si’ Action Platform” that in gradual stages will invite Catholic dioceses, religious orders, schools and other institutions to publicly commit to a seven-year journey toward ecological conversion and “total sustainability.”
The hope is by starting small, the movement will eventually reach a “critical mass” with more and more corners of the church taking part over time.
The action platform is framed across seven “Laudato Si’ Goals” grounded in the encyclical’s concept of integral ecology.
And there would be roughly two dozen benchmarks including becoming carbon neutral, defending all forms of life, adopting simple lifestyles, promoting ecologically centred liturgical celebrations and educational curricula, and divesting from fossil fuels and other economic activity harmful to the planet or people.
Brisbane Archdiocese already has a Living Laudato Si’ steering committee, and Mr Arndt said the new Vatican initiatives would help plans “concretely develop”.
“We are currently talking about how we can practically implement action that enables the (Brisbane) archdiocese to participate at all levels in the development of a commitment to ecological conversion,” Mr Arndt said.
In practical ways many steps are already being taken – Brisbane Catholic Education has several pioneering clean-energy projects, and many schools have implemented solar energy and recycling projects, and installed large water tanks to reduce reliance on town water to keep campuses and ovals green.
Mr Arndt said one of the key planks of Laudato Si was dialogue, “and we need to see this as an opportunity for ongoing dialogue with people who are environmentally active”.
He said this included long-standing alliances with environmental groups in Queensland and new partnerships with Pacific neighbours who are on the frontline of climate change.
Last September, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, of Suva, Fiji and president of the Oceania Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences, (pictured) visited Brisbane, describing the climate threat engulfing Pacific island nations and the need for “ecological conversion”
He said Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’, taught that “the root cause of the ecological crisis is what he calls the techno-economic paradigm and our misguided way of looking at where human beings are in this world”.
“The Pope says that in this techno-economic paradigm he is referring to how technology and money have power over creation and also the way we think,” Archbishop Chong said.
“We need an ecology with God at the centre.”