Chris Carling, Westminster Justice & Peace Communications Volunteer
Source: Independent Catholic News
St John Paul II first called for an “ecological conversion” in 2001 and since then the need for urgent action on climate change has become ever more apparent. The phrase was cited again by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ (2015) and subsequently has given name to a Brighton-based environmental group. It suggests the action to tackle the climate emergency required of Christians is like our constant spiritual conversion – a process, not an event, and always the work of the Holy Spirit.
This is the experience I have had in facilitating weekly meetings on Care for Creation with Catholics from across London and South-East England, including that Brighton based group. The meetings bring together laity, religious and clergy: together this is the Church. I am inspired to hear how Christians are being moved by the Holy Spirit to take action to protect our common home, that precious gift from the Creator.
Some are far along their journey of ecological conversion and have already taken decisive action. Pope Francis has attributed a special place to religious communities who are trialling the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This website is designed to bring together Catholics from across the world to share advice and learn how to take urgent ecological action. Some communities are examining the meaning of the vow of poverty, committing to buy and live ethically in solidarity with the world’s poor, often going as far as to live almost entirely meat free.
Parishes too are taking action to mobilise their communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take action on climate change. There are already almost 100 Livesimply parishes in England and Wales, parishes which have received accreditation from CAFOD for their efforts to ‘live simply, in solidarity with people in poverty and sustainability with creation’. Other parishes are cooperating with councils to install solar panels or with local eco-schools to plant community orchards.
Pope Francis has inspired the whole church to take urgent action with his ever more relevant encyclical Laudato Si’. In October the Vatican will formally launch the Laudato Si’ Action Platform to give Catholics the tools to take urgent action for the planet. A month later the Pontiff will travel to Glasgow to call on world leaders at the COP26 conference to act faster.
The Spirit is also moving in the episcopacy. The bishops of the Philippines have appointed an environmental lead for every one of its 72 dioceses. In England and Wales, too, environmental leads are being appointed across the country with the task of implementing newly published environment policies. Bishop John Arnold, as lead Bishop on the environment, is piloting an approach to climate change in his own Salford Diocese led by Dr Emma Gardner and Edward De Quay, an approach which will then be modelled across the country.
Our brothers and sisters in other denominations can also inspire us to act faster as they too respond to the call of the Spirit. I think particularly of the YCCN (Young Christian Climate Network) Relay where young activists are walking from the G7 summit in Cornwall to the COP in Glasgow. Across the country, different Christian communities are welcoming these young walkers who inspire us to tackle the ecological emergency faster. Westminster Justice and Peace, alongside young people from CAFOD, CARITAS and other diocesan groups, are looking forward to hosting them this week on behalf of London’s young Catholics.
It is easy to despair as we watch Europe flood and America burn; the climate emergency that the world’s poorest have experienced for years has finally caught up with the West. However, I am inspired by a wise Sister at one of our meetings who cited Blessed John XXIII: it is time to “throw open the windows of the Church and let the fresh air of the Spirit blow through”. I believe it is that same Spirit which is moving the Church to ecological conversion.
Thus, as we hear the call to change our lifestyles, decarbonise the Church and lobby our political leaders, my prayer is simple, just three words: Veni Creator Spiritus !
Chris Carling is a Communications Volunteer with Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. He has recently completed a European Social and Political Studies BA at University College, London.
Ecological Conversion Group – https://theecg.org/
Laudato Si Action Platform – https://laudatosiactionplatform.org/
CAFOD LiveSimply Award – https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award
Young Christian Climate Network – www.yccn.uk
Monday Care of Creation Briefings London and South-East Catholics – https://westminsterjusticeandpeace.org/2021/06/24/care-of-creation-weekly-briefings-in-london-and-the-south-east/