By Lydia O’Kane
When Pope Francis’ widely read encylical Laudato si’ was published in 2015, it sounded a clarion call to the people of the world to take "swift and unified global action” to care for our common home.
Laudato si’ Centre
Four years on from the document’s release, the Diocese of Salford in England has gone one step further and launched a Laudato si’ Centre which it says, “seeks to respond to the challenge of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and human ecology, by creating a space for practical action to care for our common home, which will help to leave a sustainable world for future generations.”
The Centre itself is situated at Wardley Hall, the home of the current Bishop of Salford, John Arnold and the project includes a walled garden, vegetable patches and beehives. It is also looking to the future with plans for a wildflower meadow and learning spaces for schoolchildren.
“I thought this was a very good opportunity for us to bring together all sorts of ideas, practical educational ideas and resources from which we can all learn”, says Bishop Arnold about the Centre.
“We’ve got a good deal of interest, certainly in the project; we are also relying on the expertise of many local people who really are taking the environment very seriously and helping us to develop a number of different projects, so that educationally, we can offer a great deal to the people of the diocese.”
So, is this the shape of things to come and could there be more centres like this one in other dioceses? The Bishop is certainly hopeful. “The Church in this country does in fact have quite a lot of property and land attached to that property and I think that we could be making, certainly, much better use of it in terms of tree planting and the right sort of domestic gardening for the growing of local produce for eating. I think that such Laudato si’ projects could… take place in every diocese, I’m sure”.
The Bishops’ call
Just recently the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales renewed their commitment to care for creation with a statement in which, they call “for the development of a “Christian spirituality of ecology” which begins in “personal” and “family life”.”
Bishop Arnold, who is also the Bishop for the Environment at the Conference, explains that “what the Bishops want to say is that we’ve all got to have our own commitments; in our parishes; in our schools; in our families and as individuals.”
The Church and the care for creation
Over the next couple of months, the Church will be shining the spotlight on protecting creation with two significant events; the Season of Creation which is an annual celebration of prayer and action taking place from the 1st of September to the 4th of October and the Synod on the Amazon.
Asked about his hopes for these upcoming events, the Bishop says, “we’ve got to be hopeful and recognize the great potential we have in caring for our common home and recognizing that what we do here connects with our brothers and sisters around the world and that we are all responsible for the planet in which we live.”
“We’ve got the Amazonian Synod in October where I think again we’ve got to be growing in awareness of the connectedness that we all have in caring for our common home.”
As more and more conferences and research highlight the perils of Climate Change, the Bishop of Salford maintains that the message is really beginning to sink in.
“I think it is dawning increasingly on people; I’m very pleased from a very hopeful point of view children are learning about ecology, about creation and about our care for creation… But I think it’s for all of us to be increasing in our understanding of what we’ve done and what we need now to do to correct the damage that we’ve inflicted on our planet.”