By Robin Gomes
The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have released a major pastoral letter on “climate emergency”, urging their communities to ecological conversion, listen to the cry of the Earth and the poor and act together to mitigate the ill effects of climate change.
Signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the pastoral letter, entitled “An urgent call for ecological conversion, hope in the face of climate emergency”, was released on Tuesday.
The 9-page document is divided into eight sections, with the first half offering a reflection on the state of the environment, followed by concrete ecological actions.
The July 16 pastoral letter is the 8th in a series of environment-related documents that the bishops have released over the past 3 decades, since the publication of the first one in 1988 entitled, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?”
Noting that poverty and environmental degradation are continuing to destroy “Our Common Home” the bishops stress that the cries of the earth and the poor are calling for social justice.
“Our preferential option for the poor pushes us to prioritize the most affected ‘poorest of the poor’ who cry to God for justice. It is our moral obligation to respond to their suffering,” the CBCP says.
“Given the high rate of poverty in the Philippines, the need to manage the environment is paramount. Poverty and environmental degradation mutually reinforce each other,” it says.
Pope Francis, in his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, firmly pronounced that climate change is a threat to the world’s poor.
The bishops pastoral letter follows their July 6-8 plenary assembly in Manila, which sought to find practical ways to implement the Pope’s call in “Laudato Si” in the Philippine context.
The Vatican had earlier asked Philippine Church leaders about what they have done in response to the challenge set by the pope’s encyclical.
The letter outlines the issues facing the country, among them irresponsible mining, the building of dams, and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy, such as coal.
Several studies have shown that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
“We must activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet,” the bishops say.
Dirty energy, consumption
In the document, the bishops urge that financial resources of Catholic institutions be disinvested from “dirty energy” like “coal-fired power plants, mining companies and other destructive extractive projects”.
“Divestment from such investment portfolios must be encouraged,” they stress.
They also encourage everyone to "live simply" and "minimize consumption" and to "actively promote ecological awareness and action" by segregating waste, minimizing the use of plastic and paper, and eliminating single-use plastics.
They urge transition to safe, clean and affordable renewable sources of energy such as solar power.
The bishops also announced the creation of an “ecology desk” in all diocesan social action centres that would make ecology their special concern.
The CBCP urges that Laudato si' be integrated into the curriculum and strategic plans of Catholic schools, including seminaries and religious formations.
“Popularize and integrate the understanding of climate change and its mitigation in our formation programmes,"
They affirm that they are one with the Pope in pursuing a common agenda to protect “our fragile ecosystem from the threat of the continuing ecological crisis”.
“We have the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home. This is our Christian duty and responsibility,” they say.