By Robin Gomes
The Catholic bishops of Bangladesh have launched a campaign to plant 400,000 trees across the country during the current the Special “Laudato Si’” Anniversary Year, in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” - On Care for our Common Home.
The bishops led by Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, inaugurated the tree-planting drive on the premises of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) centre in the capital Dhaka on Aug. 14. In keeping with Covid-19 health protocols, only a limited number of clergy, religious and lay representatives attended the ceremony.
The bishops who planted 3 fruit trees, called on Catholics in the country’s eight dioceses and their parishes to do so during the 2020-2021 period.
“Laudato Si” Anniversary Year and beyond
It was on May 24, 2015, that Pope Francis signed his landmark encyclical. The 5th anniversary of the document was marked with a “Laudato Si’” Week, May 17 to 24 this year, which kicked off the year-long Special “Laudato Si’” Anniversary Year, May 24, 2020, to May 24, 2021.
The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that is organizing and promoting the celebrations said that the end of the “Laudato Si” Anniversary Year will see a 7-year period of projects, activities and initiatives by Catholic communities and institutions across the world, to spread the spirit of the encyclical.
At the inaugural ceremony, Cardinal D'Rozario, CBCB president said that trees play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance. However, with population growth and the many needs of people, forests and green covers are gradually depleting. As a result, various natural disasters are affecting the world. In such a situation, the Archbishop of Dhaka said, the community needs to be aware of and emphasize maintaining the natural balance.
The cardinal hoped that by uniting with the world community and the country, Bangladesh’s Catholic Church will be able to contribute at least a little bit to the ecological balance and sustained development of the country by planting the trees.
Celebrating Bangladesh's independence and founding leader
With the tree-planting drive, Bangladesh’s bishops also intend to mark 50 years of the country’s independence next year, as well as the birth centenary this year of the founding father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangladesh which attained freedom from Pakistan on March 26, 1971, will be marking a year-long celebration, March 26, 2021, to March 26, 2022. The nation that marked the birth centenary of Mujibur Rahman on March 17, 2020, also launched a year of centenary celebrations, which will conclude on March 17, 2021.
Cardinal D’Rozario is the head of the 50-member national committee, formed last year to plan both celebrations.
“We love the nation and we hold the father of the nation in high respect,” said the cardinal. “Every Catholic in the country,” he said, “needs to plant a tree to express love for the country and honour for our founding leader.” “We will mostly plant fruit trees, but also trees that can produce wood in the future.”
The tree-planting initiative is being sponsored by the CBCB and Caritas Bangladesh, the social service arm of Bangladesh’s Church.
Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, the president of Caritas Bangladesh said they been organizing various programmes in the dioceses to sensitize people about climate change and the environment. Tree planting, he explained, is a symbolic activity of the Church for national awareness in safeguarding the environment.
The initiative connects grassroots communities with global efforts for environmental conservation, said Benedict Alo D’Rozario, president of Caritas Asia, the continental body of Catholic charities.
Speaking to UCA News, he said Christians can make more environmental conservation efforts without spending a penny. He encouraged practices such as abandoning plastic bags for jute bags, utilizing waste to produce compound fertilizer and preventing wastage of drinking water.