The Laudato Si’ Research Institute, based at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Randeree Charitable Trust, celebrated on 23rd May 2023 at Westminster Cathedral Hall the launch of the book: Al-Ḥamdu li’llāhi Rabbi’l-ʿĀlamīn ‘Praise to God, Lord of the Worlds’: An Introduction to Qur’anic Ecology and Resonances with Laudato Si’.
This study, written by Qur’anic hermeneutics scholar Farhana Mayer, unpacks the multiple resonances of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ with the Qur’an. It demonstrates significant common ground on perceptions of the natural world as a precious part of God’s creation, the interrelatedness of all creation, the understanding of humankind as the being in whom earth and spirit are conjoined, the need for divine guidance, and others. The book dwells especially on the most beautiful names of God – the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Lord-Nurturer, the Kind, the Nourisher, the Guide – and on ethical and ecological principles for human action that can be derived from these.
During the event, Bishop John Sherrington, the Auxiliary Bishop for Westminster, responded to the book by highlighting many areas that resonate with the Catholic Social Teaching tradition. He noted that speaking of ‘resonances’ instead of the usual ‘similarities and differences’ between faiths was more uniting. This need to deepen our common ground in the face of our complex contemporary ecological challenges was emphasised by all panellists.
Fazlun Khalid, a pioneer of Islamic ecological thought, argued that over the course of the last two centuries humanity has shifted from a focus on the divine to a focus on the human, and latterly to a focus on the mechanistic. One particular sentence from the Laudato Si’ encyclical – “there can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself” (§118) was cited many times. All faiths need to work together to turn the tide of what Laudato Si’ calls “the modern myth of unlimited material progress” (§78) and to rediscover humanity’s place in creation, and balance (mizan in the Qur’an), in reference to a forthcoming milestone document Al-Mizan: A Covenant for the Earth, for all Muslims worldwide. The virtues of moderation and learning to live with less were mentioned as central to this rebalancing of humanity’s relationship with the earth.
Rabiah Mali, founder of the Green Deen Tribe, which seeks to heal the wounds of separation and lack of access to nature for Muslim women, shared in her contribution how overcoming a sense of fear of being in nature as an unsafe place – which has been the experience for many women in the world – was fundamental. That the same word is used in Arabic for compassion (raḥim) and for a woman’s womb is a powerful way of seeing the presence of the divine in all life that is germinating in nature.
Colette Joyce, the Justice and Peace coordinator of the Westminster Diocese, in response to a question about the usefulness of conceptual work for practical action, highlighted the importance of concepts in the formation of people. Concepts, as described in this book, include mercy, integrity, equitability, and others, and are essential for people to be formed in mercy, integrity, or what Christian ethics would call virtue formation.
For Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, the formation of virtues, and deep listening to each other in a way that is transformative, provides a way forward for further Christian-Muslim collaboration. He commented, “Farhana Mayer’s book is quite exceptional. Here is a distinguished Muslim theologian who has set herself the task of listening with incredible sensitivity to the text of a papal encyclical and allowing it to spark off reflections and what she calls “resonances” in her own religious tradition. I have never come across anything like it as a gesture of hospitality and bridge-building between Catholicism and Islam.”
There is only one home, and we are one family. The LSRI hopes that this book – the Qur’anic Resonances of Laudato Si’ – will be a means to bring that family closer as together we seek to care for our common home.
It is the fruit of the Qur’anic Resonances of Laudato Si’ project, part of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue on Integral Ecology research cluster at the LSRI that aims to explore the comparative perspective between Christian and Muslim traditions.
People around the world are being invited to celebrate Laudato Si’ Week 2023 from 21-28 May with the theme: Hope for the Earth, Hope for Humanity.
Laudato Si’ Week 2023 marks the eighth anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on care for creation. Laudato Si’ was first published 24 May 2015.
Communities are invited to base their celebrations around the 2022 film “The Letter” which tells the story of a journey to Rome of five frontline leaders – Arouna, Ridhima, Chief Dadá, Greg and Robin, respectively representing the poor, the youth of the world, the indigenous peoples and earth scientists – to discuss the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ with Pope Francis.
This global celebration will unite Catholics to rejoice in the progress we have made in bringing Laudato Si’ to life, and show how the protagonists of “The Letter” are already doing so. The film can be watched for free online.
Laudato Si’ Week in South Sudan
Another idea for Laudato Si’ Week is to follow the Solidarity with South Sudan programme.
Every day Solidarity with South Sudan will publish news and stories from the South Sudan, the world’s newest country, to show you how their projects and communities meet the Laudato Sì Goals.
You can visit their website and Social media from 21 May to 28 May to remain updated on the Solidarity mission in South Sudan.
Opening talk given by Bishop John Sherrington at the ‘Towards Decarbonisation Seminar’ for parish teams on 18th February 2023
Today’s meeting is the next stage in our reflection on how to reduce the carbon footprint of the diocese and to live more fully the Church’s teaching on the care of our common home.
The evocative photograph that illustrates this article shows ‘earthrise’. It is the first photograph taken by an astronaut of the earth rising in front of the moon. It dates from the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968. I remember the excitement of these pictures arriving from space as a young boy. The photograph evokes wonder and awe as we look at our beautiful world and see the patterns of cloud, sea, and land.
Economics and Development
In 1967 St Paul VI published Populorum Progressio on the development of peoples. He argued for the need to place persons at the heart of development rather than economics. He developed the term authentic human development (PP 14) which becomes a focus for Catholic Social Teaching.
Questions of development and economics were the subject of much debate in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember discussions at school about wind and solar power, tidal energy, and questions about future nuclear expansion. On my bookshelves I found Barbara Ward and René Dubos’ book Only One Earth – the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet published in 1972. It was a set of papers commissioned by the UN on the human environment. These papers argue the dangers of a world dominated by a prevailing attitude to technology which fails to respect people and the good of the planet.
I am sure that many of you will be familiar with Ernst Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful (1973) which challenged the economic theories of the 1970s that argued that progress was always an improvement. Fifty years later we recognise the prophetic vision of these authors.
At the end of the same decade in 1979, St Francis of Assisi was named as the patron of ecology by St John Paul II.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ (2015) gives us the most recent systematic reflection on the care of our common home. He is inspired by his namesake St Francis of Assisi who celebrated and sang of the beauty of creation in his Canticle of Brother Sun. The encyclical opens with this inspiration:
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In these words of his beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. He sings, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. (LS 1)
The Pope writes of the need to build an integral ecology, one that includes all aspects of the human and social development including the care of the gift of creation. He reminds us that we cannot discuss care of our common home without respect for the dignity of every human person. St Francis inspires justice towards our neighbour.
St Francis was concerned for both God’s creation and for the poor and outcast – remember he shared his rich clothes with a beggar. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. (LS 10)
All is Gift
St Francis helps us appreciate that creation is a gift. All is Gift. A growth in gratitude for the gifts we have received could help us focus this season of Lent. We seek to appreciate the gifts we have been given by God and offer thanks and praise to him.
What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). (LS 12)
The Book of Genesis, as well as psalms 8 and 104, sing of the glory of God’s creation. Man and woman are the apex of God’s creation, created in his image and likeness. They are called to be stewards and care for this wonderful gift of our common home imitating the delight and mercy of the Creator.
St John Paul II captures this sense:
Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude. (Letter of St John Paul II to Artists, 1999)
Gerard Manley Hopkins captures this in the introduction to his poem God’s Grandeur, which begins,
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed…
Further, we are reminded by Pope Francis that, ‘Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.’ (LS 12)
The only worthy response to this gift of our common home is gratitude which leads to generosity.
The Holy Trinity and Created Reality
The starting point for a Christian theological reflection is God the Trinity; God who is Three Persons in One God. The divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, exist in relationships of love with one another. The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father. St Augustine describes the Holy Spirit as the ‘kiss of love’ who proceeds from the Father and the Son, as we pray in the Creed. St Bonaventure offers further insight to understanding these relationships. The Pope refers to his theology in the encyclical:
St Bonaventure teaches us that each creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be readily contemplated if only the human gaze were not so partial, dark and fragile. In this way, he points out to us the challenge of trying to read reality in a Trinitarian key. (LS 239)
We are invited to see how God has left his mark on all of creation. The created world, according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. A central theme of the encyclical is that ‘Everything is interconnected’. The Father creates the heavens and the earth; the Son redeems all creation from the effects of sin; the Holy Spirit draws all of creation towards ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1) and ‘makes all things new’ (Rev 21:5). This dynamic reveals, albeit imperfectly, the Trinitarian structure of created reality and its relationship with the Creator. This is clearly seen in David Attenborough’s nature programmes, e.g. Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, which are all about relationships.
The Effects of Sin
Almost from the beginning, God’s creation is scarred by sin. The Book of Genesis shows how the harmony of God’s creation is broken by the Fall; the relationship between Adam and Eve, with God and with the earth. The relationships are broken because they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and desired to be like gods. Injustice and violence interrupt the harmony and enter the world with their effects still visible in our world today.
Hopkins in God’s Grandeur captures this state of alienation with creation,
… Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
I was privileged to visit the parish in Quezon City, Philippines, where the city dump of Payatas is located, when I was teaching at a Vincentian seminary. I observed four trucks a minute delivering the city’s waste. The dump, home to many people who scavenged to survive, was open from dawn to dusk. I accompanied the local priest to celebrate a month’s mind Mass for a 14 year old who had been killed when he was struck by a dumper truck. In simplicity we celebrated the Mass, Christ’s redemption of mankind, and prayed for the repose of his soul.
As a response, we are invited to listen and hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (LS 49).
Reconciliation in Christ
We have hope because God in his love sent his Son to redeem the world. The familiar words of St Paul deepen our hope,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5)
Christ reconciles all things to God overcoming the sins of injustice and violence. All is to be reconciled to the Father who desires ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1) and who ‘makes all things new’ (Rev 21:5). The Holy Spirit brings about a new creation. The final lines of Hopkins’ poem promise the consolation and presence of the Holy Spirit brooding over the world.
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
We are called to be ambassadors for Christ proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom of justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are invited to cooperate in the work of redemption:
“Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.
Pope Francis describes how we mature as Christians by entering deeply into this web of relationships and helping to build the solidarity which exists with all of creation,
The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity. (LS 240)
Growing in gratitude
Pope Francis calls for the ecological conversion of Christians ‘whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtues; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience’ (LS 217).
As we grow in gratitude, thanksgiving and praise for the gifts we have received, so we become ‘poor in spirit. Freed from selfishness and a desire for possessions, we grow in the virtue of humility and simplicity. Laudato si’ captures this spirit,
It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures (LS 222).
We seek growth in justice towards our neighbour and God, temperance or moderation of our desires, prudent choices which lead to our maturity as Christians and the courage to live the vision and understanding of an integral ecology. As Pope Francis tells us,
There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle… All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity. (LS 211)
Today we reflect on the choices to be made in parishes about heating, lighting and other ways to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of the diocese.
The life of St Francis inspires our conversion and repentance of our sins, faults and failures in relation to God’s beautiful creation (LS 218).
Finally, let us reflect again on Hopkins’ poem:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Bishop John Sherrington
This is the second in a series of occasional reflections on the call to ecological conversion by Bishop Sherrington. The first is available to read here.
The Diocese of Westminster has committed to do its utmost to become carbon neutral by 2030 in its parishes and curial buildings. It has also expressed its commitment to working with schools to encourage them to follow the same path. As Pope Francis explains in Laudato Si’, caring for God’s created world and cooperating with the Holy Spirit in this work of creation is everyone’s responsibility, not least that of the faithful.
Follow the link to view the 2021 carbon footprint report, watch Cardinal Vincent’s video and read the accompanying documents below to find out more:
Wednesday 1st March – Our Lady of Fatima, White City
Jenny Garzón Saavedra, a youth worker in San Vicente de Caguán, in the Colombian Amazon will be speaking on Wednesday evening, 1 March at Our Lady of Fatima Parish Hall, White City, west London. 7.30pm start. (Refreshment from 7.15pm)
The hall is beside The Presbytery, Commonwealth Avenue, White City Estate London W12 7QR which is at the back of the church. Nearest tube stations are White City on Central Line and Wood Lane on Hammersmith & City. It is 5 mins walk from Bloemfontein Road bus stop on the 207, 607, and 260 busses along the Uxbridge Road and it is 2 mins from the White City shops bus stop on the 283 from Hammersmith Bus Station to Hammersmith Hospital.
Jenny works for CAFOD partner, FUNVIPAS, which is the local diocese’s social outreach team. She trains and supports parish groups who are still feeling the effects of 50 years of conflict in Colombia, and in areas where there are no paved roads, running water, electricity or access to health care. Jenny works on a project that helps communities learn to care for creation and put this into practice in all areas of their lives. For example, communities find innovative ways to recycle discarded household objects into useful items.
Saturday 4th March – Flame 2023 at Wembley Arena
Jenny will also be sharing her inspirational work with 8,000 young people at Flame 2023 at the Wembley Arena along with Archbishop Tagle and others on Saturday 4 March, and will be visiting schools and parishes as part of her visit.
Jenny is a talented painter and uses painting to help children/teenagers learn about their rights – such as the right to a healthy environment – and to participate in decisions that affect them.
Jenny has witnessed the deforestation of the Amazon for cattle: “I dream that our land, our Amazon, will not disappear. I dream that we continue to take care of it, defend it and love it”.
The next meeting of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network (SDEN) on Monday 13th February 2023, 12.45-2.00pm, will be an exploration of ‘Laudato Si’ in 2023’, revisiting Pope Francis’ document to see how it is inspiring and continues to guide our agenda in this, its eighth anniversary year.
John Paul de Quay (Journey to 20230), Colette Joyce (Westminster Justice & Peace), Richard Busellato (Rethinking Choices) and Sian Thomas (Caritas Brentwood) from the Planning Group will all be presenting short inputs on aspects of the encyclical Laudato Si’ that are motivating them. You will also be invited to share the phrases and sentences that most inspire you.
As it is also the day before Valentine’s Day, we will once again be participating in the ‘Show the Love’ social media event to show our love for the environment online.
Please bring, draw or decorate a green heart ready for a screenshot!!
More About the Southern Dioceses Environment Network
The SDEN is a network for all Catholics and our friends who care about creation and meets monthly online on the second Monday of the month. We also organise occasional other events online and in-person.
Some events take place jointly with the Northern Dioceses Environment Group, as we all work together to animate the Catholic community in the long-term task of stabilising our climate and protecting our common home.
We are inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, especially as set out by Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si’, and the teachings on caring for the earth and one another found in Scripture.
Participants include CAFOD and Diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ Animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. You are welcome to attend as a one-off or to participate regularly.
The Southern Dioceses are: Arundel & Brighton, Brentwood, Clifton, East Anglia, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southwark and Westminster.
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ (Chair) and Colette Joyce (Co-ordinator) join Bishop John Arnold (Environment Spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales) in signing an open letter to PM Rishi Sunak to withdraw approval for the Cumbrian coal mine and honour the Paris Agreement to reduce fossil fuels.
More than 450 Church leaders and Christian environmental campaigners have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State Michael Gove, calling on the UK Government to rethink its approval of a new coal mine in Cumbria, which received the go-ahead last week but threatens the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5ºC.
The letter states: ‘We acknowledge that this region needs investment, but the Government is supporting a dying industry instead of securing sustainable green jobs for the long term. We know that every pound of investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry. Coal from this mine will continue to heat up the planet, pollute the atmosphere, and most severely impact those in the world’s poorest countries who have done the least to cause the climate crisis. We lament this great injustice.’
Coordinated by Young Christian Climate Network and supported by Operation Noah and Christian Aid, the letter has been endorsed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, by the lead environmental bishops for the Church of England and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (Bishop Graham Usher and Bishop John Arnold) and by the heads of the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Undeb yr Annibynwyr/Union of Welsh Independent Churches, Quakers in Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Clergy and members of other Christian denominations have also signed the letter.
Last year, the International Energy Agency said there could be no new fossil fuel developments anywhere in the world if global heating were to be limited to 1.5ºC – the internationally agreed upon goal – while research from Carbon Tracker has found that 90% of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground as unburnable carbon in order to limit global heating to 1.5ºC.
The open letter from Church leaders and campaigners quotes a 2018 lecture that Michael Gove gave to the Christian think tank Theos in which he said, ‘Christians are called to remember their rightful place within Creation – and the vast web of life it created – and their responsibility to protect and defend it.’ The letter states, ‘we urge the UK government to practise what (Gove) preached by keeping coal in the ground and investing in a sustainable future.’
Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, Lead Bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: “Despite a government commitment to phase out coal-mining, in spite of the possibilities of creating jobs in renewable energy production in Cumbria, despite the fact that UK steel producers will not use this type of coal, the government is permitting the opening of a new mine. While illogical, it is a blatant contribution to further climate damage at a time when the Prime Minister has recently stated, at COP27, that the UK is taking a lead in environmental care”.
Dr Chris Manktelow, Campaigns Lead for the Young Christian Climate Network said: “As young people who want a better future for everyone living on this planet, we were deeply concerned about the approval of the first coal mine in the UK for thirty years. We felt that church and Christian leaders needed to speak out against this decision. We hope that the government will listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor and consider the consequences of its actions.’
Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints Church, Ascot commented: “Opening a coal mine when the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions almost in half by 2030 is arguably the least conservative thing this Conservative Government could do. Not only does it threaten the international goal of limiting global heating to 1.5ºC, and thus make some of the more dangerous impacts of global heating more likely, but it is an economically disastrous policy that short-changes an area of the country that needs investment.”
“The coal industry worldwide is moving away from the type of coking coal the Cumbria mine will produce. Moreover, according to the UN, every pound of investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry. The people of Cumbria deserve more than this desperate gambit to extract the most polluting of all fossil fuels at the very time the world is rapidly transitioning to renewables. We should be investing in the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past – jobs which will soon be gone.”
Sophie Powell, UK Advocacy Lea at Christian Aid said: “The UK Government is trashing the legacy of its own COP26 climate summit in Glasgow which claimed to mark the end of the era of coal just 12 months ago. Almost all the coal from this new mine will be exported, not used in the UK. The Government will be propping up the coal industry, exacerbating the climate crisis and causing more suffering to people already struggling to cope with worsening droughts, storms and floods.”
Presentation by Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications, CAFOD
Neil was a delegate for the Holy See (the Vatican) to COP26 and COP27. He told us that what was different about COP27 was that the Holy See had acceded to the Paris Agreement (2015) and so are now a party to the COP for the first time (as a State). This happened toward the end of October 2022 and it is worth noting that signing up comes with difficulties and challenges. It requires commitment. Preparation was minimal in terms of time, so the Vatican was not able to prepare this time in the way they probably will in future.
COPs have a direct impact influence on countries’ economies and policies, unlike e.g. The Sustainability Goals, which are voluntary. There are accountability and transparency mechanisms which is vital for the principles behind the COP and the impact it will have moving forward. What happens at COP matters because it has to be taken back to countries domestically.
The fault lines are clear between the countries that caused the climate crisis through historic emissions (UK, US, France, Germany etc.) and those that didn’t (Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, India etc.) The common, yet differentiated, responsibilities between the two groups are held by some as a matter of principle and have political consequences.
At a COP there are actual negotiations and political signals (found primarily in the cover text).
The cover text included food, rivers, nature-based solutions and right to a healthy environment for the first time.
Innovative financing options were part of the discussions and included in the cover text.
Negotiating streams dealt with:
Averting the climate crisis (mitigation)
Minimising the harm from climate change (adaptation)
Addressing the harm already done (loss and damage)
A fund for loss and damage (compensation) has been agreed in principle and a transition group has been set up to work out the detail of how this is to be done.
Excellent expert report presented on reaching net zero and calling out greenwashing.
Sharm El-Sheikh Programme of Work established to take forward issues on food.
COP27 could have been worse – the first pavilion was a HUGE Saudi Arabian pavilion. Egypt was the president of COP27 and this first pavilion told a story of the influence the Saudi Arabians had on them.
Best expressed by Alok Sharma (UK COP26 President) in his closing remarks at COP27:
“Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary.
Not in this text.
Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal.
Not in this text.
A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels.
Not in this text.
And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.
Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak.
Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”
Alok Sharma, COP27, Closing Remarks
The Climate crisis continues to hit people hard and fast.
The influence of fossil fuels companies took over.
No strengthening of 1.5 targets or phasing out fossil fuels, even though UK government strong stance on these negotiations.
Climate finance – targets still not met from 2009 – big disappointment.
From CAFOD and Holy See point of view – disappointment with the narrow, productionist, approach to food systems. Nature/people outlook didn’t get a look in.
CAFOD, Holy See, and the Future
The Holy See made a number of interventions.
Pressed for a comprehensive view of food systems, as found in Laudato Si’.
Asked for separate financial mechanism for loss and damage. Taken notice of by other states. Thanked by the small island states for doing it.
Positive as a Catholic family for our voice to be heard.
In the build-up CAFOD had done work with partners. African Climate Dialogues. Brought partner voices into the COP.
Hope to be stronger and better prepared for the next COP. Early preparation is important.
It is important for us to think about pushing the UK Government.
We need to push on loss and damage, the food system as a national discussion (also the next CAFOD campaign.)
Q & A:
What is the best way to push the UK government? Contacting MPs and being consistent is strong and don’t be afraid to send evidence. The more who speak the better – especially if they are Conservative.
How does the work of the Holy See filter down through the Diocese level? If only – Being a part of the Holy See is seen as a government. A report will be done for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales by Neil Thorns and a suggestion has been made that the Holy See themselves do this but it is not simple.
Was there a presence of other faiths? There are various groups recognised such as Indigenous groups, there is a strong representation of faith groups which is great to see.
How influential are the side groups? Not one answer to this but if you see COP in the two ways – political/negotiating but then also the conversation that happens outside such as deals and agreements making traction.
Has there been writing following COP27? Formal writing is not shared from my knowledge. Church globally sees this as important enough to take action – Bishops/Cardinals can be asked how we are translating the Paris agreement into our local realities. A bottom-up approach.
Question: What is your response to Neil’s presentation? Where do you think we are now and what do you think will be important in 2023?
Next Southern Dioceses Environment Network Meetings
Monday, 9 January 2023, 12.45-2.00pm – Joint meeting
The meeting will hear from the Diocese of Salford that has been carrying out extensive surveys of all parish and diocesan buildings to develop a decarbonisation pathway and to help prioritise decarbonisation projects.
We will also get an update on the Guardians of Creation initiative with a focus on the engaging parishioners in the ‘ecological conversion’ we all need to make if we are to respond with urgency to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Monday 13 Feb 12.45-2.00pm Monday 13 March 12.45-2.00pm Monday 15 May 12.45-2.00pm Monday 12 June 12.45-2.00pm Monday 10 July 12.45-2.00pm Monday 11 Sept 12.45-2.00pm Monday 9 Oct 12.45-2.00pm Monday 13 Nov 12.45-2.00pm Monday 11 Dec 12.45-2.00pm
The Guest Speaker is Neil Thorns, the Director of Advocacy and Communications at CAFOD. Neil attended the UN Climate Conference COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (6-18 November 2022) as part of the Vatican delegation. He will be sharing with us some of his insights and reflections from that experience.
We will also spend some time reflecting on the Advent Season and looking ahead to 2023
All Catholics and our friends with an interest in climate justice and protecting the environment are welcome to attend. For more details on the Southern Dioceses Environment Network and recordings of previous meetings please visit our webpage:
“We are waging war on nature. This Conference is about the urgent task of making peace.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave the following address at the opening of UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 in Montreal, Canada, on 6 December. He is a practicing Catholic.
Nature is humanity’s best friend.
Without nature, we have nothing.
Without nature, we are nothing.
Nature is our life-support system.
It is the source and sustainer of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the energy we use, the jobs and economic activity we count on, the species that enrich human life, and the landscapes and waterscapes we call home.
And yet humanity seems hellbent on destruction.
We are waging war on nature.
This Conference is about the urgent task of making peace.
Because today, we are out of harmony with nature.
In fact, we are playing an entirely different song.
Around the world, for hundreds of years, we have conducted a cacophony of chaos, played with instruments of destruction.
Deforestation and desertification are creating wastelands of once-thriving ecosystems.
Our land, water and air are poisoned by chemicals and pesticides, and choked with plastics.
Our addiction to fossil fuels has thrown our climate into chaos – from heatwaves and forest fires to communities parched by heat and drought, or inundated and destroyed by terrifying floods.
Unsustainable production and consumption are sending emissions skyrocketing, and degrading our land, sea and air.
Today, one-third of all land is degraded, making it harder to feed growing populations.
Plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are all at risk.
A million species teeter on the brink.
Ocean degradation is accelerating the destruction of life-sustaining coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, and directly affecting those communities that depend on the oceans for their livelihoods.
Multinational corporations are filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts. Ecosystems have become playthings of profit.
With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction.
We are treating nature like a toilet.
And ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy.
The loss of nature and biodiversity comes with a steep human cost.
A cost we measure in lost jobs, hunger, diseases and deaths.
A cost we measure in the estimated US$3 trillion in annual losses by 2030 from ecosystem degradation.
A cost we measure in higher prices for water, food and energy.
And a cost we measure in the deeply unjust and incalculable losses to the poorest countries, Indigenous populations, women and young people.
Those least responsible for this destruction are always the first to feel the impacts.
But they are never the last.
This Conference is our chance to stop this orgy of destruction.
To move from discord to harmony.
And to apply the ambition and action the challenge demands.
We need nothing less from this meeting than a bold post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework:
One that beats back the biodiversity apocalypse by urgently tackling its drivers – land and sea-use change, over exploitation of species, climate change, pollution and invasive non-native species.
One that addresses the root causes of this destruction – harmful subsidies, misdirected investment, unsustainable food systems, and wider patterns of consumption and production.
One that supports other global agreements aiming at protecting our planet – from the Paris Agreement on climate, to agreements on land degradation, forests, oceans, chemicals and pollution that can bring us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
And one with clear targets, benchmarks and accountability.
Promises made must be promises kept.
It’s time to forge a peace pact with nature.
This requires three concrete actions.
First – Governments must develop bold national action plans across all ministries, from finance and food to energy and infrastructure.
Plans that re-purpose subsidies and tax breaks away from nature-destroying activities towards green solutions like renewable energy, plastic reduction, nature-friendly food production and sustainable resource extraction.
Plans that recognise and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, who have always been the most effective guardians of biodiversity.
And National Biodiversity Finance Plans to help close the finance gap.
Love in Action – Live to Love’ are displayed in large letters on an arch greeting people entering the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in London’s White City. They were immediately welcoming to myself and to Colette Joyce, Co-ordinator of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, as we visited the parish to assess it for the LiveSimply Award on 17 November. The award is given to Catholic parishes and schools in England and Wales which commit to live more simply and sustainably and to act in solidarity with the world’s poor.
We soon realised that we were in a beacon parish, with multiple initiatives for social justice and care of God’s creation. The parish has now become the seventh parish in Westminster Diocese and one of more than 70 parishes in England and Wales to achieve the award.
So much impressed us as we were shown around by parish priest Fr Richard Nesbitt – who is a trained Laudato Si’ animator – and parishioner Hilda McCafferty, who coordinates justice, peace and ecology work. The space around the church, once fairly bare, has been transformed into a beautiful green oasis which is prized in a built-up area with blocks of five-storey flats surrounding. The garden has been developed, “to increase biodiversity supporting a greater variety of wildlife and an environment where parishioners of all ages can enjoy nature and get more involved in ‘hands-on’ gardening.” Evergreen laurels are supplemented with flowering plants which are friendly to pollinators. In fact, several small insects landed on my glasses as we toured. A water feature and composting bin were nearby. Benches made from recycled plastic welcome parishioners to sit in the parish grounds, where one side has a Grotto and on the other a statue of St Francis with birds. Even on a soggy Autumn day the garden was inviting. We saw photos of a pet blessing in the local park of seven dogs and a cat.
Inside the church doors was a display of the parish LiveSimply project, including posters of a ‘Care of Creation Quiz Night’, a ‘Green Living Fair’, a parish viewing of ‘The Letter’, and ‘We are proud to be a Fairtrade Parish.’ The parish commitment of prohibiting disposable plastic was highlighted. Indeed, the parish has banned the use of throwaway crockery and cutlery in its parish hall and insists on the use of eco-detergents. Battery recycling was available by an entrance. Fair Trade products were on prominent display in the repository, alongside Archbishop Romero crosses produced in El Salvador. This demonstrated that while the parish maintains support for communities in the global south – with volunteering, fundraising and awareness raising for CAFOD, Mary’s Meals and linked parishes in Tanzania and Nigeria – the LiveSimply journey has led it to a commitment to the local community in White City. There are good links with Caritas Westminster and the Catholic Children’s Society.
There is a weekly sale of second-hand clothes – stored in the parish garage – and an annual ethical fashion show is very popular with the young people of the parish, especially Confirmation Candidates who are involved in its organisation. Walking, cycling and car sharing are promoted. In fact, the parish organises free cycling, maintenance and safety awareness classes for people of all ages, as part of an initiative to encourage parishioners to reflect on their transport choices. The Caritas ‘Love in Action’ programme gives parishioners a deeper understanding of the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which guides work in the parish. There are regular ‘Live Simply Challenges’ in the parish newsletter and online to encourage consuming less and living more simply and sustainably, such as ‘less wasteful Christmases’ and aspiring “not to have more but to be more.”
Parishioners get involved in supporting on-line and local campaigns on environmental, trade justice and poverty issues. This time last year – during the UN’s COP26 on Climate in Glasgow – a ‘Parliament in the Parish’ was organised involving local MP Andy Slaughter. In April 2022 parishioners joined CAFOD’s Walk Against Hunger. More recently, Hilda joined Westminster Justice and Peace at the London march for the Global Day of Action on Climate, linked to COP27. Around 15 parishioners meet regularly in a ‘Care of Creation’ zoom meeting.
On ‘Living Sustainably’, the parish has established an annual Care for Creation month (mid-September to mid-October) with a variety of events finishing with a parish Creation Mass. This aims to inform, educate and inspire the parish community to the “ecological conversion” which Pope Francis promotes in ‘Laudato Si’. It is also part of a desire for the parish to highlight environmental action within the wider local community. After a carbon footprint/energy usage audit, the parish has insulated buildings and changed all lighting to LED systems. There is an annual parish trip to a local recycling centre and new initiatives considered all the time.
The parish aims to make its parish centre a community hub and has resisted lucrative offers to rent which would have reduced access to the local community. This means regular classes and groups, as well as the Thursday Club for elderly parishioners, organised by Laura Allison, the parish’s Community Support Worker. She told us it was, “the highlight of my week,” and it was great that our visit was on a Thursday. We met senior citizens knitting squares for blankets for Ukraine and one was teaching seminarian John Casey to knit! Anastasia, aged 91, was crocheting a shawl to donate to the cause. Other rooms were used for keep fit classes for seniors, IT training and a ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ upcycling centre run by a Colombian parishioner called Marisol, who has received National Lottery funding to teach sewing and upcycling classes.
A culture of neighbourly care has been developed, with home visits for the housebound, elderly and isolated and transport for housebound parishioners. Weekly vegetarian meals are provided for the wider community, with 70-80 people of all faiths attending regularly. Surplus food is distributed in partnership with charities FoodCycle, Felix Project and City Harvest. The parish newsletter and social media provide regular feedback on the activities.
But back to the church, Colette and I were so impressed by new stained-glass windows in the church, created by London artist Mark Cazalet. Images contained faces which reflected the multi-cultural nature of the parish and background outlines of the White City landscape. Contextual theology was the inspiration, where theology has responded to the dynamics of this specific context. In two collages, saints of colour – such as Josephine Bakhita, Martin de Porres and Andrew Kim Taegon – were honoured alongside Bernadette of Lourdes and Maximilian Kolbe. Just last year the parish produced a book ‘Rooting out Racism from our Parish,’ with the desire to celebrate the diversity of the congregation and counter racism.
A young person in the parish – Alessandro, aged 10 – had been given a wall in the parish centre to decorate on the theme of ‘Love Creation’. The central globe was made of recycled materials; the land area with green bottletops from milk containers. Alongside drawings of flowers he wrote, ‘Save our Colours’. A power station belching out gases was among ‘The Causes of Global Warming’, and a cause of pollution, recognising that air quality is an issue in the area. It was life-affirming to see a young artist given this platform.
Hilda felt the award “will help us appreciate what we have done over the years.” Laura explained that “so many people have put such hard work into building up the parish and community, it is nice for everyone to celebrate.” Fr Richard took the view that, “all this work is an expression of living the Gospel in this real and raw community.”
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, meeting in Leeds last week, commended the LiveSimply Award as a response to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”. They encouraged all parishes and schools to consider signing up to the award “as a sign of their solidarity with the poor and their desire to live in harmony with God’s creation.”
The programme is administered by CAFOD and first award was given ten years ago, in 2012.