By Robin Gomes
A Philippine diocese has been commended by the Vatican for becoming the first diocese in the entire Catholic Church to adopt renewable energy.
“The Diocese of Maasin, in the Philippines, has become the first diocese in the world to equip all parishes with solar panels,” notes a document on integral ecology that Vatican officials released last week to mark the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’.
Released on June 18, the document entitled, “Journeying for the care of the common home - five years after Laudato si’”, offers not only reflections and guidelines on how to maintain a healthy relationship with creation in the spirit of the encyclical, but also cites many initiatives and good practices already underway across the Catholic world.
It dedicated an entire paragraph to the efforts of the Philippine Church.
Maasin Diocese in Leyte province has installed solar panels in 42 churches to generate electricity in its fight against global warming and abuse of the environment.
In this regard, the Vatican document cited WeGen Laudato Si’ (WGLS), a Philippine-based next-generation technology company inspired by the Pope’s encyclical, which is partnering with Maasin Diocese in going for solar energy in a big way.
“I am surprised to know that our humble effort to implement something to preserve our Mother Earth, heeding the call of Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ Encyclical letter, got recognition and affirmation at a high level,” Bishop Precioso Cantillas of Maasin said regarding the Vatican citation.
He said he is hoping that they will reach a level where they “can contribute more significantly to the restoration and preservation of our environment”.
The project started as a dream in 2017 to mark the golden jubilee celebration of his diocese.
“The dream project intends to cover 50 diocesan buildings and schools and around 40 parish churches, including 50 laity members whose properties, such as businesses and homes, will be invited to join,” the bishop said.
Cost-effective clean energy
Bishop Cantillas pointed out that the installation of solar panels in the cathedral and school buildings has saved the diocese more than US$2,000 in electricity bills per month.
According to WeGen, the lifespan of the solar panels was up to 25 years and that the diocese could recover its investment in seven years.
“With those solar panels in place for 25 years, some 1,875 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions are avoided,” a WeGen representative told reporters.
Speaking about good practices in terms of renewable energy, the Vatican document also commended the Episcopal Commission on the Laity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, that signed a memorandum with WeGen “to promote the use of and access to renewable energy, especially solar energy” in Church institutions and in the poorest communities in the Philippines.
“In this context, through this project,” the document notes, “information and communication campaigns are also promoted to spread the teaching of Pope Francis and Laudato si’.”
On its website, WeGen explains that it was “formed specifically to work closely with the Catholic Church and other religious communities in the country”. They also “encourage various sectors of society to shift from using conventional sources of energy to clean, renewable energy from the sun”.
“The Diocese of Maasin was able not only to cut their power bills, but also to show the world what pursuit of the care for our common home, as embodied by Pope Francis' Laudato si’', looks like,” WeGen wrote in a post on Facebook.