“May the Lord hear this cry and grant mankind a new heart, capable of showing compassion to the whole of creation…”
These were the words of the Catholic Bishops of Europe on 20 August as they promoted the Season of Creation. The “cry” they refer to is the “cry of the Earth” which was highlighted in Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’.
As the bishops lamented the devastating fires seen throughout Europe this summer, linked to global warming, and shrinking biodiversity, they reflected that “the hand of man is the main cause of this current situation” and called for “a time of serious conversion of attitudes and habits”. They deplored the impact of war on both people and planet.
The bishops referred to the message of Pope Francis for the Season of Creation where he urged “ecological conversion” and said: “In this Season of Creation we pray once more in the great cathedral of creation, and revel in the grandiose cosmic choir made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God.”
He deplored “cries of anguish” of a natural world “prey to our consumerist excesses” and imploring us “to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction”. He pointed to the “tyrannical anthropocentrism” highlighted in Laudato Si’, suggesting it is “completely at odds with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation”.
The Church is approaching the time of year when it invites the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to pray and take action to care for creation. This liturgical season runs from 1 September to 4 October. Hundreds of events have been organised in parishes and schools throughout the UK, and resources are available on this year’s theme – “Listen to the Voice of Creation”.
The Australian priest Fr Charles Rue, of the Columban Missionary Society, has produced “A Catholic Season of Creation” resource for the Sundays of September and October 2022. He suggests that “inserting a ‘Season of Creation’ into the Catholic liturgical year during September is a structural way to help implement the Pope’s vision in Laudato Si’.”
The initiative helps Catholics to face the twenty-first-century ecological crisis and demonstrates that “the Eucharist is a privileged place to remember Laudato Si’ in prayer, loving all things on Earth as kin.”
Resources for Sunday Masses have also been produced by Laudato Si’ Animators and Eco Groups in Scotland. They offer a penitential rite and prayers of the faithful for each Sunday, based on the message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Practical ideas include creating Laudato Si’ themed gardens for meditation and participating in local environmental clean-ups.
More than 100 parishes and an increasing number of schools across England and Wales have achieved Cafod’s LiveSimply Award where they undertake to live more simply and in solidarity with poor communities. While many Catholic parishes have become increasingly committed to social justice, care for the environment had not been a focus of many, and the Livesimply award is being promoted during the Season of Creation to encourage sustainability.
Recently, the Diocese of Leeds announced that the Burley in Wharfedale Parish of SS John Fisher and Thomas More has achieved an award, the sixth parish in the diocese to do so. The Children's Liturgy Group created bat and bird boxes at home and in the church grounds. A garden composting area has been built, and water butts installed along with insect-friendly flower and shrub beds.
Sue Rix, chair of the parish pastoral council, said the parish has responded to Laudato Si’ and the Leeds diocesan environmental policy by “looking at the things we value most, asking how to start changing what we do in our lives at home and in the parish, the better to protect and enhance our beautiful, but fragile world”.
Pope Francis is calling for involvement in initiatives of the United Nations: “During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity.” He has said that the Catholic Church continues to support the United Nations initiatives that bring Conferences of Parties (COP) nations together.
The Season of Creation will see planning for COP 27, the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change which will take place in Egypt on 6-18 November. It aims to build on previous goals from the Paris and Glasgow climate talks and pave the way for future ambition to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change.
In the UK, “Walk2COP27” starts on 22 September. The 45-day virtual journey features twelve locally hosted town hall-hybrid meetings between Glasgow (which hosted COP26) and Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh (which will host COP27), showcasing how climate change is impacting each location and the solutions that are being deployed.
The 12 locations are Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Campaigners can join these gatherings online, or in person. In the final week of the journey, the voices of all participants will be recorded and synthesised into a proclamation for the COP27 attendees.
The Columbans have launched a second season of podcasts, “Jubilee for the Earth: Biodiversity and Our Sacred Story”. The podcasts inform viewers in the lead-up to COP15, the United Nations conference on Biodiversity, which will take place in 7-19 December 2022 in Montreal, Canada. Six episodes will be released over the course of the 2022 Season of Creation.
“Jubilee for the Earth” is about the beauty of God’s biodiversity and the threats it faces. The natural world is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, with grave impacts for human wellbeing, and a million species face extinction. Each episode will explore biodiversity loss and a related issue like climate change, indigenous peoples, and young people. The Columbans see the devastating impacts of diminished biodiversity, the collapse of ecosystems, and climate change on communities who contribute least to these problems and whose natural resources are exploited and destroyed for the benefit of others.
A Season of Creation 2022 series of webinars throughout September from the Scottish Laity Network will address such issues as “Our Common Home – Privilege and Responsibility” and “Fossil Fuel Divestment and Investment in Clean Energy”.
The Season of Creation was established by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, in 1989, when he proclaimed 1 September as the Orthodox Day of Prayer for Creation. Later, the World Council of Churches extended the celebration to 4 October, the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. In 2015, Pope Francis made the Season of Creation an official celebration for the Catholic Church.