By Giada Aquilino - Vatican City
The conclusion of the Special Year for the Anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si' is both a "challenge" and the "beginning of a new journey." Amongst the projects that are fuelling the journey is the “Laudato sì Action Platform,” a 7-year-long journey: “it is the journey of a lifetime, of the realization that we need to take action together” for the care of our common home. Rodne Galicha is the executive director of “Living Laudato Si' Philippines,” an organisation of lay Catholics established in Manila in 2018 that is spreading throughout the Philippines. It aims to empower citizens and institutions to adopt lifestyles and make choices under the banner of safeguarding creation, to promote sustainable development and a deep commitment against climate change.
LS Action Platform
“Living Laudato Si' Philippines” is one of the youth organisations animating the Laudato Si' Platform (LS Action Platform), the action tool launched by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development at the close of the Laudato Si' Week. The initiative was organised to celebrate the end of the year wanted by the Pope “to reflect on the 2015 encyclical” and to take stock of the progress made by the Church and by Catholics around the world on the journey to ecological conversion.
During the Regina Caeli on 24 May last year, five years after the publication of the document, Francis invited all “people of goodwill” to take concrete care of “our common home and of our most frail brothers and sisters”. Now, "the Laudato sì Action Platform seeks to transform Pope Francis' dream into action," Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Sector of Ecology and Creation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,” explains. In his encyclical, the Pope asked us to give life to a grassroots popular movement for the care of our common home. At the end of the Laudato si' Year we thought that the moment had come, both because of the urgency stemming from the cry of the earth and the cry of poor of which the encyclical speaks - an urgency that has become even stronger and more poignant in recent years - and also because it is an urgency that has been highlighted by the current pandemic. I wouldn't say that we are starting something new,” Fr Joshtrom adds, “because thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit in many parts of the world, communities, leaders, parishes, schools, universities, religious orders are moving and are already very committed to putting the encyclical into practice".
The Laudato si' Platform, Fr. Kureethadam continues, seeks to "give a structure, a common spirit to all the initiatives, with a very specific objective: to make our communities sustainable, according to the spirit of integral ecology, throughout a seven-year journey. Thus, we have identified seven different sectors, starting with families, then parishes and dioceses, schools and universities, hospitals and healthcare centres, the economic world and businesses, including agricultural businesses, the sector of Catholic groups, civil movements and NGOs, and religious orders.” Collaborating in the project together with the Vatican Dicastery are Caritas Internationalis, the World Catholic Climate Movement (WCCM), the Union of Superiors and Superiors General, the CIDSE network - Together for Global Justice – as well as various youth organisations, including the Don Bosco Green Alliance, and ecclesial organisations such as Repam.
Generating a critical mass
The Coordinator of the Sector for Ecology and Creation explains that the urgency is to "respond to the cry of the earth, for energy, water, biodiversity, and to the cry of the poor, because in everything we do we put those who are most vulnerable at the centre, as the Pope invites us to, not because they are victims, but protagonists of this journey". Our objective is to promote an ecological economy, education and spirituality, and encourage people to adopt simple lifestyles and engage in community commitment. Thousands of people have already taken up the initiatives of the Laudato si' Action Platform: “Our hope,” Fr. Joshtrom says, “is that every year we will be able to at least double the number of communities joining this journey and thus reach the 'critical mass': that is our goal. We are starting out as the Catholic Church, but we hope it can become an ecumenical and interreligious path, the important thing is to foster dialogue between all of us to rebuild our common home.”
The experience of the Philippines
Regarding the ecological economics system proposed by the Platform, Rodne Galicha explains that the Living Laudato Si' Philippines organisation in the last two years, has focused for example “on the divestment campaign, because we need to look at how we spend our financial resources and how we respond to the challenge of Laudato si', particularly regarding financial deposits. That’s because, at the end of the day, it is the way we spend our money and support industries and activities that can damage our common home,” he adds. The attention of the Philippines is also focused on the #LS211 campaign, which encourages youth and adults to be “eco-citizens everywhere, anytime, at school, at home or work” through “small acts of love.” Particularly in Catholic schools and universities, Living Laudato Si' Philippines suggests knowledge of the encyclical is acquired “not only by integrating Laudato Si' into the curriculum,” Galicha points out, “but in all facets of the activity and plans of the educational institutions.”
On a community level, two parishes in the Philippine Diocese of Romblon, that of Santo Niño in the village of Danao on the island of Sibuyan, and that of St Thomas of Villanova on the island of Tablas have also built a Living Chapel and Laudato si' Gardens. At St Thomas, “the parishioners are building a staircase with 500 steps, which leads from the Laudato si' Garden to the Living Chapel: we want to commemorate,” Rodne explains, “the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines,” which falls in 2021, proving that the Church continues to be “a home for the marginalised and the oppressed” and whose cry we hear and respond to.
On the other hand, the Laudato si' Year, Fr. Kureethadam recalls, “was truly a moment of grace amid the pandemic crisis that we are still experiencing: I believe that the faithful and all people received the proposal to implement that change for an integral ecology that the pandemic requires of us with enthusiasm and joy.” The 'good news', Rodne Galicha echoes, is that “we are undertaking a new journey at every level of society.”