By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church in the Philippines has reiterated its commitment to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si, urging all to join the upcoming Season of Creation and sign a petition to world leaders to take action for a “healthy planet and healthy people”.
"Code Red for humanity"
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), made the call in a pastoral letter on Tuesday. He drew attention to the recent warning by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres who cited the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying it was a “code red for humanity”.
The archbishop said the study “shows the world is dangerously close to irreversible global warming unequivocally caused by human activities”. “This is the context where we are called to celebrate the Season of Creation, renewing our home which is on the verge of the abyss,” he said.
Season of Creation
The CBCP call comes ahead of the annual celebration of the Season of Creation by Christian Churches across the globe, including the Catholic Church, which begins with the World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1 and ends on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi the patron saint of ecology, greatly revered by many Christian denominations. The theme of this year’s celebration is, “A Home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God”. The CBCP has extended the celebration of the Season of Creation to the second Sunday of October, the Indigenous People’s Sunday.
Archbishop Valles recalled the words of Pope Francis, who said that the Season of Creation offers “individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation”. It is an opportunity “to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live”.
In view of the commitment of the Philippine Church to the vision of Laudato si, the CBCP president urged the faithful on three issues. He invited them to celebrate the Season of Creation with their families, communities and parishes. They could update themselves regarding initiatives on the CBCP National Laudato Si Program Facebook page
The Philippine bishops encouraged participation in activities organized through the National Laudato Si Program in rolling out the 7-year Laudato Si Action Platform.
The CBCP also called on all to sign the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition”, launched in May by the Laudato Si Movement, which will be handed to world leaders attending two crucial UN conferences. The UN Biodiversity Conference is scheduled from October 11 to 24 in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference will be held from November 1 to 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
According to the IPCC report, human-induced climate change is already causing many extreme weather and climate conditions, such as storms, heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires, in every region across the globe. Many of these changes, it warns, are unprecedented. Some of the shifts are in motion now, while some - such as continued sea-level rise – are already ‘irreversible’ for centuries to millennia.
“Our common home is on the brink of catastrophe,” the CBCP pastoral letter noted, calling for urgent action. The bishops hope “this Season of Creation would lead us to renew our commitment to action to ensure that all creation will have a safe and healthy home to flourish and participate in renewing the Oikos of God”.
The Season of Creation began as a Day of Prayer for Creation by Orthodox Christians in 1989, an initiative of Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople. He chose September 1 as the day, which marks the start of the Orthodox liturgical year, in commemoration of how God created the world. The World Council of Churches (WCC), of which the Orthodox Church is a member, was instrumental in extending the Day of Prayer for Creation from 1 September until 4 October, calling it the Season of Creation. Christians worldwide have embraced the season as part of their annual calendar. On behalf of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis embraced the Season of Creation in 2015.