In the four years since being appointed bishop of Salford, I have been blessed to know wonderfully kind families. In them, I see a reflection of the heavenly family that guides and inspires us.
My concern for how these families will fare in a climate-threatened world grew sharper this summer, as heat waves, wildfires, and storms came to Greater Manchester. That is why I’m grateful that this week’s World Meeting of Families will provide opportunities for families to protect creation.
The World Meeting of Families, a Vatican–convened gathering in Dublin, brings families from around the globe to reflect on the essential role they play in society. Sustainability is a key topic of the meeting. From guidance for pilgrims to creation-themed prayer cards to a meditation garden with biodiversity lessons, the weeklong event offers many opportunities for families to consider their relationship with creation.
This is important because caring for our common home can deepen our ties to God and each other. The World Meeting of Families sees care for creation as a way to “think deeply, live wisely, and love generously”.
Spending time with each other, unplugged and outdoors, is a beautiful way to grow relationships. Whether it’s tending a garden together or simply finding a few moments for a walk in a park, connecting with the people we love in the splendor of nature has a richness that simply can’t be replaced.
Just as important, finding ways to weave creation care into daily habits puts Catholic teaching at the centre of family life. Small actions, like using less electricity or eating a meatless meal, can have a big impact on the health of our planet. Practicing these habits together teaches children that our daily choices can add up to a safe planet for our sisters and brothers.
The benefits to families are clear, and I’m grateful that the World Meeting of Families will offer them to its pilgrims.
I deeply hope that all of us will follow where the World Meeting of Families – and the Vatican – are leading. The Church is sounding an urgent call to protect the entire human family from the consequences of climate change.
This summer’s events in Greater Manchester, and indeed throughout the British Isles, are similar to what we can expect as the world grows hotter. Climate change is loading the dice, making events like heat waves, fire, and severe storms more likely. It’s true that we’ve always had events like these–it’s also true that with every day we continue to warm the Earth, we make these events more likely.
And, as people around the world can attest, the gamble we’ve taken in changing the world’s climate is already coming up for payment. Tragically, theWorld Health Organisation estimates that the consequences of climate change already cause 150,000 people to die each year, mostly in poorer countries of the global South.
And, sadly, the truth is that the climate crisis is already hitting closer to home. Ten families have recently taken the EU to court over its failure to protect them from the catastrophic consequences of climate change. They include a grandfather in Provence whose farm lost over 40 per cent of its harvest due to temperature and rainfall change, an indigenous Saami family in Sweden that is less able to rely on reindeer, and a foresting family in Portugal that lost its timber in a wildfire fueled by an unusually hot and dry season.
Human suffering like theirs is among the reasons why, in 2016, we in the Diocese of Salford joined 15 other Catholic dioceses in the United Kingdom in switching to clean, renewable energy.
Since we made the switch, our diocese has been able to say with gratitude that we’ve taken meaningful steps to protect the human family by reducing our carbon footprint. This is an important part of our service to the Gospels’ vision of protecting the young, the poor, and the vulnerable. We celebrate the progress made, but we also recognise that there is much more to be done.
The pilgrims gathering in Dublin this month will reflect on how caring for our common home is an opportunity to connect with each other and with the Gospel values that sustain us. I pray that all of us will reflect with them.
Bishop John Arnold, Diocese of Salford. Spokesperson on the environment for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
For more information on how Catholics around the world are tackling climate change and to join in yourself, check out the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a network of over 650 Catholic organisations.