A year to the day following the Pentecost Sunday church massacre in Nigeria, a petition calling for justice was handed in at 10 Downing Street. Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, received the petition organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN-UK).
On 5th June 2022, 41 people were killed and more than 80 were injured when terrorists opened fire and detonated explosives during Mass at St Francis Xavier’s Church, Owo, south-west Nigeria. Nobody has been charged in connection with the atrocity which took place in broad daylight in a church packed with witnesses.
Human rights champions and Nigeria experts Baroness Caroline Cox and Lord David Alton of Liverpool yesterday joined ACN National Director Caroline Hull and Head of Press & Public Affairs John Pontifex to hand in the petition.
Lord Alton told ACN: “I was shocked to hear about these cruel and barbaric attacks in the parish of St Francis Xavier in Owo. Things only get worse when the perpetrators are not brought to justice. It is important that we lose no opportunity to keep reminding the world about the price that people are paying for their faith.”
Also present at No 10 were Father Matthew Madewa from Ondo Diocese where Owo is located, ACN (UK) National Ecclesiastical Assistant, Father Dominic Robinson SJ, from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, London and Mike Watts, a teacher from St Benedict’s School, Ealing with Gabrielle, a Year 8 pupil.
Father Madewa told ACN: “We believe something positive will come out of the petition. It is important to raise awareness. The more awareness we can generate, the more likely a positive outcome is. We are hopeful that the new president of Nigeria [Bola Tinubu, sworn in on 29th May] will do more to serve justice and provide security.”
Survivors of the Owo attack told ACN that they will continue to feel unsafe until those responsible are bought to justice.
Father Michael Abugan, the parish priest at St Francis Xavier’s, said that his congregation remembered the victims at a candlelight procession and memorial Mass on the anniversary. He said, on behalf of the survivors: “I am hoping that the new government will be entirely different from the past administration in its response to security matters. We also believe that the new president will do his best to bring different ethnic groups and religions together.”
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ (pictured above) is Chair of the Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, in addition to his duties as the National Ecclesiastical Adviser for ACN.
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.
By John Woodhouse, Laudato Si’ Animators UK. John is the Westminster Justice and Peace Contact for Westminster Cathedral.
How did it feel at 76 to be going on my first real demo and march? A bit daunting, but the two days I spent were fantastic and fun!
We started at St John’s Waterloo with a service of praise and lament and then we walked to the Shell building where Magda Kadziak who leads the European Laudato Si’ Animators and had travelled from Poland read the prayer of Pope Francis from Laudato Si’. Led on by the Salvation Army band we reached Parliament Square to find thousands more protesters.
The second day I settled at the Faith Hub – I had walked 6.2 km with my stick the day before!- and Fr Joe Ryan celebrated Mass. This was very special. Fr Joe said he had waited fifty-two years for this day and he produced a copy of Laudato Si’. The Gospel was the road to Emmaus and it was noticeable how the congregation grew during the Mass.
This was a fantastic opportunity to meet twenty Animators from around the country who I had known on Zoom for two years and, in fact, I met lots of other Catholic and Anglican friends as well. The variety of protesters was just staggering and all was well-organised and stewarded. It was good to see families taking a full part. The reason I am so committed to this cause is that I want a better world for my three grandsons. We must all do what we can!
Christians from many denominations taking part in the Big One climate protests on Friday, began with a prayer service led by church leaders including Bishop John Sentamu at St John’s Church, Waterloo. So many had arrived for the No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service, there was standing room only in the church, and hundreds remained outside.
After the service, a line of seven Anglican bishops and other church leaders led a march via Shell HQ to Parliament, (where Bishop Sentamu tried to deliver a letter – but was reported to the police – read more here ) to join the protests.
They were accompanied by Christine Allen director of CAFOD, with dozens of CAFOD supporters, Anthony Cotterill head of the Salvation Army UK, with the Salvation Army Brass Band, plus representatives from Tearfund, Christian Aid, Young Christian Climate Network, Student Christian Movement, Operation Noah, Just Love, A Rocha UK, Engage Worship, Green Christian, All We Can, Christian Climate Action and others.
The Big One, taking place from 21 to 24 April, is already one of the biggest UK climate protests to have taken place, with thousands of people gathering around Parliament across four days to demand an end to the fossil fuel era. This peaceful protest has planned many family-friendly activities throughout the four days.
Christine Allen, director of CAFOD told ICN: “Pope Francis has called on every one of us to take collective responsibility to care for our common home. The Pope has said that means leaving behind the fossil fuels that are destroying our common home.
“We cannot continue to allow a situation where fossil fuel companies reap record-breaking profits while people in communities that have contributed least to the climate crisis pay the price.”
The former Archbishop of York and current Chair of Christian Aid, John Sentamu said: “Climate change is the most insidious and brutally indiscriminate force of our time. The people suffering the most have done the least to cause it. That is why continuing to search for new sources of fossil fuels, despite explicit warnings against this from the International Energy Agency, is such an offence against humanity. If we want to limit climate suffering we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The Church has a proud history of standing up against injustice and once again we need to see Christians calling on the [UK} government to take decisive action.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, the lead Church of England bishop for the environment, said: “I commend this peaceful, prayer-fuelled service and pilgrimage. The message is loud and clear: ‘Wake up world!’ It is time to stop playing political games and take action now. We are already seeing the effects of the climate emergency around the world – and it is the world’s economically poorest people who are already suffering the most. So it is our moral duty and a Christian calling to do all we can to try to turn the tide. Our leaders must seize this moment and deliver real and impactful change for the future of God’s creation. We don’t have a spare Earth – this is our one precious home.”
In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating. But since this stark warning, all major oil companies are continuing to explore for and develop new fossil fuel reserves.
Despite the advice of the IEA, the UK government has opened a new licensing round for companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea. Nearly 900 locations are being offered for exploration, with more than 100 licences set to be awarded. The UK government is also subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Since 2015, the UK government has given £20 billion more in support to fossil fuel producers than to those of renewables.
Last year, a YouGov poll commissioned by CAFOD found that 59 per cent of Christians felt the government had done too little to tackle climate change over the last year. Only 16 per cent of Christians surveyed thought the government had done the right amount.
The Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft, Anglican Bishop of Oxford said: “Earth is the only planet, the only corner of this vast universe, where we are certain there is abundant life. Yet the once-rich tapestry of life on earth is now being degraded year by year because of the expansion and greed of a single species, ourselves. We have time, just, to respond to the climate crisis. This is the moment to send a clear message to the Government that they must go further and faster to tackle carbon pollution.”
The Rt Rev Hugh Nelson, Anglican Bishop of Truro, said: “The climate emergency isn’t a problem for the future; it’s a disaster that already affects many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Jesus said that he came to be ‘good news to the poor’ and I hope that many Christians will be in London for The Big One to stand with Jesus and speak up for the poorest of the world.
The Rt Rev Richard Jackson, Anglican Bishop of Hereford, said: “Climate change is an international emergency, the consequences of which reach to every corner of the world. In Herefordshire excess rainfall has caused the Wye to reach its highest ever level in the last few years, bringing not just flooding but sewage outflows that have had a devastating effect on wildlife. We can do our little bits as individuals, but only concerted government action can bring the necessary changes to reach our net zero target. I commend Christian Climate Action for continuing to bring this issue to government for their response.”
Rev Jo Rand, a Methodist Minister from Cumbria, said: “I’m really glad to see the number of mainstream charities and organisations that are taking part in the Big One. We must end our dependence on fossil fuels, and there’s strength in numbers as we show our leaders this isn’t a fringe issue but something that’s at the heart of working for a just world. Come and be a part of it!”
Passionist priest Fr Martin Newell said: “This is such a critical time for life on our planet. The sad truth is that the window in which we are able to turn the climate crisis around is closing fast. This is a really difficult thing to comprehend. But I choose to believe in the Church. I believe that we will not let God’s creation be sullied by greed, by selfishness and all the horrible systematic sin we are seeing around us. I invite my fellow Christians to stand alongside me as we say no to fossil fuel exploration.”
On Monday 20 March, more than 20 people attended the monthly ecumenical Home Office Prayer Vigil in London to commemorate refugees who have died trying to find a place of safety. The group has gathered every month over 18 months. Organisations represented included the London Catholic Worker, Westminster Justice and Peace, the London Churches Refugee Fund, the Community of the Word of God and Columban missionaries. Barbara Kentish gave the reflection.
So here we are, in the Fourth Week of Lent, in the middle of a worsening political situation. How can we continue to pray and have faith that God is with those coming to our shores looking for safety?
I think that it is this very sense of powerlessness that aligns us with refugees and migrants. We are unable, as things stand, to do anything significant to change the policies and hardline mentality of our government. Exiles on the move are powerless even to death, as we realise every month. We campaign, hold placards, try to communicate with our fellow human beings. We take comfort that all of us here feel the same outrage and sometimes despair that anything can be different. I have taken this reflection from a book on shared spirituality with refugees compiled by the International Jesuit Refugee Service.
‘It is in that weakness that we can take refuge. Weakness links us profoundly with God, because it provides a privileged area in which his grace can be seen, in which his sustaining presence can reveal itself, in which even his power can become manifest. This is why weakness stands as almost the opposite of sin. Weakness is a chosen context for the epiphany of the Lord, it is the night in which he appears – not always felt as assurance, but rather as a power to move on faithfully, even when we do not feel the strength, even when fidelity means simply putting one step in front of the other.”
The writer, a Jesuit Refugee Service director, points out an important corollary of our weakness, which might make us stop and think:
“The experience of weakness deepens both our sensitivity to human need and our experience of prayer. There is an important consequence for all of us in the refugee support network: we must support one another in weakness, forgiving one another our daily faults and carrying one another’s burdens. It would be absurd to maintain weakness as essentially part of our vocation and then to belittle those who are deficient, to resent those who are insensitive, unsophisticated or clumsy, to allow disagreements to become hostilities, or to continue battles and angers because of personal histories.”
There is a great tendency for us to become embittered and cynical about those whom we oppose. We have a clear duty to show love, however that is to be manifested, to those we see as enemies to the good of refugees. I don’t know quite what that looks like. But standing here in this public place, I pray that it will be revealed to us!
Let us pray: Jesus, who told us to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us, bless our weakness, and give us the heart and the wisdom to follow your teaching. Amen
Love the Stranger – Document from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, March 2023
Saturday 4th March saw about 150/200 people gathered on the north side of the Finsbury Park athletics track to plant a walnut tree in memory of Bruce Kent. In the spirit of Bruce himself it was a joyful if somewhat chaotic event bringing together numerous strands of his most varied life.
Kate Hudson there on behalf of CND head office, accompanied by Jeremy Corbyn. Bruce’s widow, Valerie Flessati, spoke on behalf of the Movement for Abolition of War along with a Keith from the Friends of Finsbury Park. Like Bruce himself they all managed to bring humour into the serious topics they were talking about. Pax Christi, London Catholic Worker and the London Peace Pagoda, the United Nations Association were but five organisations I recognised as being present after a quick survey of the crowd. The Diocese of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission was also represented. Mereid Hopwood, a Welsh language poet came all the way from her home country to deliver a poem she had composed just for the occasion.
That said it would perhaps be incorrect to describe it as a crowd as there was no ‘them and us’ as everyone was chatting as friends and all were invited to add soil as a collective team effort to plant the tree.
Initially it had been announced that the tree to be planted would be grown by Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, when pruning his olive tree Jeremy damaged the hornbeam he was growing for the purpose so, once that has recovered, it will be planted elsewhere in Finsbury Park. It seems somewhat ironic that the tree being grown to commemorate such a commensurate peace campaigner should be damaged by an olive branch! Bruce would have seen the funny side.
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:
Bishop Nicholas Hudson, who oversees Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Westminster, is one of four representatives from England and Wales joining over 200 delegates from Europe in the Czech capital of Prague to discern the fruits of the synodal work at the local level. A further ten country representatives are attending remotely.
The European continental assembly for the third phase of the Synod on Synodality is taking place from 5-12 February. Then, in October 2023, the Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome for the first of two synod gatherings.
Delegation for England and Wales
Attending in person in Prague
Bishop Nicholas Hudson (Lead, Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Westminster) Rev. Jan Nowotnik (Director of Mission for the Bishops’ Conference) Sarah Adams (Diocese of Clifton) Jessica Wilkinson (Diocese of Leeds)
Attending via live stream
Dr Johan Bergström-Allen Amy Cameron Rev. David Cross Deborah Cottam Sr Lynda Dearlove VCF Simeon Elderfield Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko Fr John McGowan OCD Rev. Dr Callan Slipper John Smartt
Intervention by Bishop Nicholas, Prague, 6 February 2023
In England and Wales, the resonances were deep between the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) and our own National Synthesis. The role of women had been a headline finding of the Synod in our countries – as it was in the DCS. Like the DCS, we heard fewer calls for women’s ordination than for their inclusion in the Church’s governance. However, we noted that few lay men exercise governance roles either.
Other headline findings which we shared with the DCS? Inclusion was a dominant concern of our Synodal journey: the inclusion of LGBT+ people; the inclusion of remarried divorcees in the life of the Church. These conversations often encountered a tension which the DCS echoed from our National Synthesis: the tension to be found in the Church needing boldly to “(proclaim) its authentic teaching while at the same time offering a witness of radical inclusion and acceptance.”
The inclusion of young people was also a dominant topic in our Synodal journey. Many dioceses had a large youth engagement, especially from schools. The joy expressed by the young people who took part contrasted with the pain of those concerned about young people’s involvement. This tension the DCS failed to observe. However, we were with DCS in recognising the tension between young people who seek to adhere to the 1962 Missal and those who prefer more contemporary celebrations. We felt DCS did not communicate sufficiently the “sadness and anger… sense of grievance and marginalisation” of many around the liturgy.
As in most countries, many English and Welsh priests were unclear as to how they were supposed to engage with the Synodal process. As in most countries, there was frequent expression of appreciation for our priests, along with concern that too much is asked of them. However, clergy and laity alike were surprised to find scant reference in DCS to clerical sexual abuse.
The deepest resonance came with the call for formation, which pervades both DCS and our National Synthesis – a sense that diverse resonances and tensions call for diverse types of formation. This is to say:
formation which gives voice both to those who feel themselves to be on the margins of the Church and also to the voice of Tradition;
formation in truth and mercy: formation that holds in tension the authority of Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium and personal experience;
formation in the Faith, not least in the teachings of Vatican II;
formation in Synodality – for clergy and laity together;
formation in listening;
formation in accompaniment.
The desire for formation might be expressed as a yearning for a Synodal spirituality. Such a spirituality could be captured, in essence, as a tent held up by the four vital poles – of encounter, journeying, formation, and accompaniment.
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
HM King Charles III met witnesses of Christian persecution yesterday (Thursday, 8th December) at an Advent event in London where Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) took part.
The King listened as Father Alfred Ebalu, a survivor of abduction, death threats and violence in Nigeria, highlighted growing persecution of Christians and others in Africa’s most populous country.
Father Ebalu’s testimony was followed by an overview of heightened persecution in other parts of Africa, where it is requested that details go unreported for fear of endangering the faithful there.
Leading the delegation was ACN (UK) National Director Dr Caroline Hull, alongside Father Dominic Robinson SJ, the charity’s UK National Ecclesiastical Assistant (chaplain) and John Pontifex, ACN (UK) Head of Press and Information, who introduced the witnesses.
The King was given an introduction to ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22, launched ahead of last month’s #RedWednesday, the charity’s campaign on behalf of the suffering Church.
The meeting took place at King’s House, a centre of worship, community outreach and mission run by King’s Cross Church, where representatives of social action and welfare groups gathered alongside Christian charities to meet the King.
Other VIPs included the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also met the ACN group, and Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.
After the event, people packed into the nearby Ethiopian Christian Fellowship Church UK for an Advent service with Christmas music, prayers and blessings with input from King’s Cross Church, Archbishop Welby and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Angaelos of London.
Friends and supporters of ACN were present at the service and the reception that followed.
After the event, Dr Hull said: “We are so grateful to the King for giving us the opportunity to introduce him to witnesses of Christian persecution. It’s so important that their stories be heard and our thanks go out to King’s House and all those who made the event such an important testimony to the vital role faith plays in our world today.”