Nine years after world-renowned Columban theologian Sean McDonagh first addressed the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission he returned to give a wonderfully enriching overview of Pope Francis's letter, Laudato Si'. More than 70 people from across the diocese attended the occasion at St John Vianney Parish Centre In Tottenham, as Father Sean rolled out gem after gem of the encyclical, published in May, with illustrations from his own observations and experiences of over 40 years speaking out for the environment.
Sarah Hagger-Holt from the CAFOD Campaigns team followed this with a very practical session on the parishes LiveSimply scheme, which maps out how the Catholic community might explore the insights of Laudato Si' in a communal and personal way. Living Simply, Sustainably and in Solidarity with the poor, the core of LiveSimply, has been adopted by four parishes so far in Westminster, and two parishioners, Daniel St Guillaume from St John Vianney's, and John Scott, from Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew in Hitchin, narrated their parish stories to achieve the LiveSimply Award. The J&P Commission will be promoting LiveSimply across the diocese in the coming year.
Christine Lang, Environmental Secretary of Pax Christi France, explained the growing involvement of French Catholics in the environmental movement, as they connect up environmental challenges to peace. Areas where water and agriculture are threatened have contributed to the destabilisation of Syria, for instance. People have realised the importance of 'living the alternative', and drew attention to the experimental group, Alternatiba, which has toured France over the last few months (www.alternatiba.eu). French parishes have become more aware of the UN Climate talks shortly taking place in Paris, and have asked how they can get involved, offer hospitality, etc. Christine highlighted the events for pilgrims the weekend before the conference, and the number of related events and exhibitions. For the first time, the UN Conference organisers will provide an open space for climate activists, in the vicinity of the conference itself, the first time this has happened.
A Cosmic Walk The audience was then led into the Church for a 'Cosmic Walk', a symbolic journey starting with the Big Bang, following a ribbon stretching round the outer aisles, with nothing happening for over half the length, and then the stages of creation marked in appropriate stages, and human life appearing at nearly the end of the ribbon - a humbling position! We meditated on our place in creation, reminded by Sean that each creature chas its own intrinsic value, which is not decided by humanity, but by God. Laudato Si indeed.
Sean's presentation will feature on our website shortly. He also has no less than 27 powerpoint presentations outlining Laudato Si retailing for £10 the whole set, and available from the Columbans via St Joseph's, Watford Way, Hendon, London, NW4 4TY tel: 020 8202 2555 email: firstname.lastname@example.org