By Robin Gomes
Local Catholics will be taking part in the first “Cebu Archdiocesan Convention on Climate Emergency”, January 31 – February 1.
Some 500 members of the clergy and lay leaders from 160 parishes, representatives of private sectors and policy experts will try to develop recommendations and solutions to the most pressing environmental issues.
Representatives of the academia, business sector, civil society groups and local government units have also expressed a keen interest in the convention.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Archbishop Jose Palma declared that the protection of creation has become a priority for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Much of their meetings, he said, have been focussing on what the Church “can do to respond to the many forms of degradation and ways our environment had been destroyed”.
He said that the Cebu conference will look at the “ways our environment had been destroyed by natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, typhoons, earthquakes, floods and [at] what we can do from the perspective of faith.”
Father Murphy Sarsonas, chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Environmental Concerns (CACEC), said the Philippine Church has 13 ecological actions but the Cebu convention will tackle only five which are considered “closer to Cebu.”
Representatives of entities of sectors such as waste management, water sustainability, renewable energy and marine ecosystem conservation, who are partnering with Cebu Archdiocese in the conference, were also present at the press conference.
Fr. Sarsonas cited Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si” which highlighted the care of “common home”. The Pope advocates the 2030 sustainable development agenda as a means to combat climate change.
500 years of Christianity in the country
According to the archbishop, the climate emergency conference will be a key part of the celebration of the fifth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines, which the local Church is preparing to celebrate in 2021.
“We must act together in the face of climate emergency,” he said. “This, to me, is a very important aspect of the preparations.”
The main activities related to the jubilee will take place in Cebu. The province is considered the "cradle of Christianity" in the country.
After the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in 1521, the first baptisms were believed to have taken place on Cebu island and the native population received the icon of the Santo Niño (the Baby Jesus).
He noted that the preservation of the image of the Santo Niño for almost 500 years is a validation that Cebuanos are great preservers. The archbishop hopes that the devotees of Santo Niño will show much passion for the protection of creation as they do for the icon.