06 September 2023, The Tablet

Church leaders demand ‘ecological justice’

Cardinal Bo: “Never in history have so many millions suffered for the egoistic enjoyment of a few.”

Church leaders demand ‘ecological justice’

Myanmar’s Cardinal Bo said that poor countries are being “strangled with an existential crisis”.
Associated Press / Alamy

As the annual Season of Creation began on 1 September, with Pope Francis announcing his plan to publish an addition to Laudato Sì’ next month, Church leaders around the world called for ecological justice.

Myanmar's Cardinal Charles Maung Bo reported that ecological injustice “has robbed food from the plates of millions of children in poor countries and snatched water from their thirsty mouths”.

Cardinal Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, added that “farmers have lost their seeds and forests have lost their topsoil”.  He described poor countries as being “strangled with an existential crisis”.  

The 74-year-old cardinal condemned rich nations who plunder resources from the global south and called it “horrendous injustice”.  

“Never in history have so many millions suffered for the egoistic enjoyment of a few,” he said. 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople made a statement deploring the ecological effects of war, saying that “every act of war is also a war against Creation”.

He said there was a close connection between environmental damage and failure to respect human rights.

“The pollution of the atmosphere, of water and earth by bombings, the risk of nuclear holocaust, the emission of dangerous radiation from nuclear plants producing electrical energy, the carcinogenic dust from exploding buildings, the destruction of forests and depletion of arable agricultural property – all these bear witness to the fact that the people and ecosystem of Ukraine have undergone and continue to undergo incalculable losses,” Patriarch Bartholomew said.

He noted that the notion of human rights has expanded today to include environmental rights, and both “are threatened by climate change, the shortage of drinkable water, fertile soil and clean air, but also by environmental degradation in general”. 

The chairmen of the US bishops’ domestic and international policy committees said last week issued a statement on water pollution.

It said that “the abundant waterways of our country have brought productive farms and flourishing urbanisations, and yet along with economic prosperity and ingenuity, our waterways have been filled with pollution, contamination, and garbage bringing injustice to peoples, creatures, and ecosystems.”

Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia, and Bishop David J Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, urged that “we must change”.

Besides living simpler lifestyles, they said Christians must seek “environmental justice in public policy...for it is the public policy decisions about collective impacts that will significantly change the course of our environmental future.”

They called for pursuing “rapid decarbonisation – ‘an energy revolution’ – to address climate change seriously, yet without doing so on the backs of the poor and underprivileged”.

The German bishops’ conference has publicly declared its support for a “Global Climate Strike” on 15 September, called by the Fridays for Future movement.

“The more people who publicly but peacefully declare that they are in favour of protecting the climate, the environment and biodiversity, the better we can express our concerns regarding Creation vis-à-vis politicians, the economy and society”, said Bishop Rolf Lohman, an auxiliary of Münster who is responsible for environmental and climate matters in the German bishops’ conference.

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