By Lydia O’Kane
The Season of Creation is now well underway, with faith communities praying and organizing events that are aimed at contributing to the protection of our common home
Writing about the season Pope Francis said, “this is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew,” a season “to reflect on our lifestyles,” and a season “for undertaking prophetic actions … calling for courageous decisions … directing the planet towards life, not death.”
Only last week, during an audience with a group of ecological experts, the Pope welcomed the fact that “the issue of ecology is increasingly permeating the ways of thinking at all levels and is beginning to influence political and economic choices, even if much remains to be done and even if we are still witnessing too slow and even backward steps.”
Situated in the north west of England is the Diocese of Salford, which is headed by Bishop John Arnold, who is also the spokesman on the Environment for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
Over the past two years the Bishop has written Pastoral Letters calling on schools and parishes in his diocese to take the environmental crisis more seriously and to make small changes in their day to day lives.
He has also responded to the challenge of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the care for creation, by launching a project in his diocese aimed at encouraging environmental sustainability.
Asked if he thinks people are becoming increasingly aware of the damage being wrought on the planet and the importance of caring for the earth, Bishop Arnold says people are becoming more conscious.
"People hear about it a lot more, certainly the media in the United Kingdom very frequently have much more news, not only about the weather, but the impact of the weather in terms of climate change: the storms, the droughts, the wildfires."
Conversion and connectedness
Over the course of his pontificate, Pope Francis has said the world is in need of an ecological “conversion” in order to manifest the Church’s vision of an integral human ecology.
He has also said that "one thing about ecological conversion is that it makes us see the general harmony, the correlation of everything: everything is connected, everything is related”.
Bishop Arnold notes that Pope Francis has "done us a great favour by saying that everything is connected, and he's done that in his encyclicals all the way through. Everybody and everything is connected and when we do something in one place it has repercussions in so many other different spheres of our society.”
He adds that the pandemic "has caused great difficulties for many people but I think it has placed before us some very important questions about our care for one another, our priorities as we emerge from the pandemic...”
The people who are suffering most in this pandemic, Bishop Arnold says, are those in the poorest nations and "we've got to be much more aware of them and their poverty and their need for basic care; healthcare."
Importance of education
One of the most rewarding aspects of pursuing the question of the environment, the Bishop says, has been the reaction in schools and in particular primary schools.
"Every school I go into seems to be very much aware of the environment; very much enthused about it, not in sense of all getting very scared about damage but actually being educated in a very positive way about how we must care for creation."
"It's quite extraordinary, you know, seven-and eight- year- olds being really quite articulate about these things and enjoying the subject."
Laudato Si’ project
Five years ago Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On the Care for Our Common Home, was published.
The document called on the entire global community to recognize how every person is connected and dependent on one another, as well as on the world in which we all live.
Marking this 5th anniversary, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has launched the celebration of a Special “Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year” which runs until 24 May 2021.
“I think Pope Francis has been the global voice really with Laudato Si’”, says Bishop Arnold, who has created an environmental project named after the encyclical, which includes a walled garden, vegetable patches and beehives.
The project, he explains is aimed at education of schools and parishes coming to visit to talk about the environment and about issues such as bio diversity.
"At the moment we are promoting a project aimed at measuring our carbon footprint so that we can hopefully help other dioceses in England and Wales to follow a policy of reducing our carbon emissions”, he says.
Stressing the urgency of dealing with the climate crisis, Bishop Arnold expresses the hope that current awareness of the problem will lead to a turn around, and repair the damage that has been inflicted on our planet.