19 May 2020, The Tablet

Laudato Si' Week celebrates 'prophetic document'

Laudato Si' Week celebrates 'prophetic document'

Brandenburg, Sieversdorf: Dried and torn up is the ground where there was water before.
Patrick Pleul/DPA/PA Images

The celebration of Laudato Si’, on the fifth anniversary of the landmark encyclical, was marked by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, with a video where he applauded “the great leadership of Pope Francis”. 

He described the anniversary as an opportunity, “to reassess our relationship with our beautiful world”. Bishop John Arnold, lead bishop on the Environment, celebrated a Laudato Si’ Mass on Wednesday, live-streamed from Salford Cathedral. 

Among episcopal messages for Laudato Si’ Week (6-24 May), Bishop Robert Byrne of Hexham and Newcastle described it as a “prophetic document that has given a theological and spiritual framework to the environmental crisis facing our world”. He thanked clergy and lay faithful, “who are working hard in encouraging our Catholic family to be better guardians of God's creation".

Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth highlighted that Pope Francis constantly links, "the need to protect and respect our common home and the need to respect and protect the dignity and lives of the poor".

To mark the occasion, Operation Noah announced that of 42 faith groups internationally who this week pledged to divest from fossil fuels, 21 were from the UK. These include the Jesuits in Britain, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, the third diocese in England and Wales to disinvest.

“Care for the world that has been given to us is an increasingly pressing need and it is therefore timely that the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton divests from fossil fuels” said its bishop Richard Moth. He felt “this positive step will contribute to the common good and, I trust, pave the way for further practical action to safeguard this and future generations.”

Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, said: “The decision to divest is principally a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency.”

Sr Bridgetta Rooney, a trustee of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, reported: “The climate crisis calls each of us to conversion of heart and change in behaviour and we felt compelled to divest of fossil fuels to reflect our values.”  She added: “We are also committed to using our resources to make positive investments that will help the transition to a zero-carbon future.”

On Monday evening Westminster Justice and Peace and CAFOD Westminster organised a zoom meeting of around 60 activists in the diocese who have been inspired by Laudato Si’. Livesimply parishes in Cockfosters, Hitchen, New Barnet and Pimlico described initiatives ranging from Walk to Church Sundays, becoming fair trade parishes, planting a garden for bees, to parishioners making a Laudato Si’ pledge to live more simply and placing livesimply tips weekly in the parish newsletter.

Fr Richard Nesbitt of White City Parish described a ‘Care for Creation’ fair held in a local park, and a pet blessing which included seven dogs, a cat and a pig! Clips from the Bishop’s Conference film resources of ‘Global Healing’ and ‘Global Caring’ were shown. Tony Sheen of CAFOD advertised the current CAFOD emergency appeal and a petition calling for the debts of the poorest countries to be cancelled as they cope with the coronavirus emergency.

The website Eco Catholic launched this week, examining the core concepts of Laudato Si’ and the Catholic Education Service released resources for schools. EcoJesuit is supporting an art challenge that invites people to share their reflections on passages taken from the encyclical. Webinars ran throughout the week.

Faith for the Climate, for example, held a webinar on Wednesday on the distinctive contribution that people of faith can add to solving the ecological crisis, with Christine Allen, director of CAFOD, and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. Justice and Peace Scotland tweeted that Laudato Si’ Week is a week not just to reflect on caring for our common home, but to take action. “Even during lockdown we can make our views known to politicians, sign petitions, support actions that will bring about climate change legislation” it said; “let's bring climate justice to all”.

The Laudato Si’ global prayer will be widely said at midday on Sunday 24 May and there is a commitment to prepare for and celebrate the Season of Creation 1 September – 4 October.

Speaking on the ‘Sunday’ radio programme last Sunday, Fr Augusto Zampino, one of Pope Francis’ top environmental advisors in Rome, said Laudato Si’ has had a “massive impact” on the political agenda, universal solidarity on climate action and ecological conversion. He suggested this is a great opportunity for “the financial world to redeem itself” by investing in sustainable jobs, health systems and cancelling the debt that burdens the poorest countries.


Cardinal Vincent Laudato Si Week Message from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

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