Season of Creation: European Bishops reiterate call for ecological conversion
By Lisa Zengarini
As the Church prepares to celebrate the Season of Creation, from 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to 4 October 2021, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron Saint of Ecology, the European Bishops join Pope Francis in urging for ecological conversion to protect and preserve our common home from destruction, and in calling in particular on Christians to be “spokesmen” of what the planet demands.
“Listening to the Voice of Creation”
The Season of Creation is celebrated annually by Christian Churches around the globe as a time of prayer and action for the safeguarding or our common home through responsible stewardship. It is a time of grace that the Church, in ecumenical dialogue, offers to humanity to renew its relationship with the Creator and with Creation, through celebration, conversion and commitment to action.
The proposed theme this year is “Listening to the Voice of Creation” and the urgency of doing so is symbolised by the ‘Burning Bush’ (Ex. 3, 1-12), referring to the prevalence of unnatural fires as a sign of the devastating effects that climate change has on the most vulnerable of our planet.
Fires in Europe
“In particular, our European continent has been faced with a real environmental catastrophe that, in 97% of cases, is attributable to the actions of man,” says Archbishop Angelo Massafra OFM of Shkodër-Pult, a Member Pastoral Social Care Commission of the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE).
“According to a recent estimate, in the 27 countries of the European Union fires have already devastated a total of 517,881 hectares since the beginning of the year, compared to 470,359 the previous year,” the President of the Albanian Bishops’ Conference writes in a message for the annual observance.
The "incalculable" damage of wars on the environment
In his message, the prelate also draws attention on the”incalculable”, damage to the environment caused by by wars, neamely the conflict in in Ukraine as well in other areas of the planet. He recalls, in particular the war in Vietnam in the Sixties when US forces sprayed massively defoliants and herbicides, including Napalm, over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong guerrilla of food and vegetation, causing what has been termed as an “ecocide”.
He also cites the heavy air pollution caused by the burning of oil installations in Kuwait during the First Gulf War aganst Iraq (1990-1991), and, more recently, the wars in Yemen and Syria with the contamination of soil and waterways.
Referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Archbishop Massafra notes that experts currently estimate that the long-term effects of this conflict may cause cancer, respiratory diseases and developmental delay in children.
Pope Francis' message for the Season of Creation
In this context, the Albanian prelate remarks that “if the hand of man is the main cause” of the current global ecological crisis, “the same hand” can find a solution to it, as repeatedly called for by Pope Francis, and reiterated on 21 July in his Message for this year’s Season of Creation.
In that message, the Pope asked the UN members for the “effective implementation” of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The Pope's message, says Archbishop Massafra, was ”not a pious exhortation”, but “a real challenge launched to the powerful of the Earth and to the leaders of the individual nations (be they rich or poor), each for their own part.”
Call for ecological conversion
But it is also a call for an ecological conversion addressed to all individuals and communities and in particular to Christians.
Archbishop Massafra’s message therefore concludes with the hope that World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September can be “a time of prayer, but also a time of serious conversion of individual attitudes and habits.”