By Robin Gomes
Entitled “Journeying for the care of the common home - five years after Laudato si’”, the document was drafted by the “Holy See Interdicastery Table on Integral Ecology”. It offers not only reflections and guidelines on how to maintain a healthy relationship with Creation in the spirit of the encyclical, but also cites many initiatives already underway across the Catholic world.
The new document was presented at a press conference in the Vatican. Among those who spoke were Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary-General of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Educational Institutions), Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, co-founder and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), Tomás Insua and Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John.
Caritas Internationalis, the 162-member confederation of Catholic development and relief agencies of the national bishops’ conferences worldwide, was inducted into the Holy See Interdicastery Table on Integral Ecology when it was created by Pope Francis in 2015.
Aloysius John spoke about some of the good practices that Caritas member organizations have been engaged in regarding integral ecology inspired by Laudato si’.
In this regard, John mentioned the commitment of Caritas India and Caritas Asia to provide new knowledge and skills among small-scale farmers in order to avoid harmful use of fertilizers. In Burkina Faso, he said, Caritas is engaged in making drinking water accessible to the population. He also recalled the "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign of Caritas Internationalis from 2013 to 2015, that addressed the right to food for all.
“All of these,” John said, “represent responses of the local Churches to this need for ecological conversion for the safeguarding of our Common Home to which the Holy Father has invited us through Laudato si’’.
Response to Covid-19
Speaking about Caritas’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic today, Aloysius John said the organization has been providing humanitarian relief to address the needs of the poor who have been worst hit by the crisis, especially with food aid, shelter and healthcare.
He pointed out that the devastating effects of this pandemic are rolling back years of progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals. “There has been a dramatic increase in poverty and at the same time a serious deterioration in the conditions of those who already, before the pandemic, were among the most vulnerable.”
Giving voice to the cry of the poor
“Caritas,” he said, “wants to give voice to the cry of the local communities with whom Caritas works every day in all countries in the world.” He said that communities that are the first victims of the failure to safeguard our common home are today asking us for targeted and immediate actions, especially concerning food security, access to water and ecosystems preservation.
Spirit of Laudato si'
At the start of the press conference, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher explained how the new document, “Journeying for the care of the common home”, has been the fruit of a team effort between the various Roman Curia offices and numerous Catholic entities across the world.
The purpose of the new document, he said, was to relaunch the richness of the contents of the encyclical, help a reflection that leads to action and bring about collaboration among curial departments and Catholic institutions worldwide to spread and realize the message of the encyclical.
Bishop Vérgez presented an interesting list of ecological initiatives of the Holy See and Vatican City, such as sorting and recycling of waste, enhancing the green cover, water and energy efficiency, solar panels and opting for organic fertilizers.
Archbishop Zani explained how Catholic educational institutions across the globe, including 1865 Catholic universities, which are frequented by a high number of non-Catholics, have been engaged in various initiatives inspired by the spirit of Laudato si’ as part of the Church’s social doctrine.
In this regard, he mentioned the Global Compact on Education, promoted by the Vatican and by Pope Francis, that calls for an educational alliance to promote care for our common home.