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Ecology group launched to mark Pope's anniversary

 On the occasion of Pope John Paul II's 23rd anniversary yesterday, a group of American Catholics formally announced its intention to promote his strong environmental messages. Catholics For Ecological Conversion takes its name from the Pope's message of 17 January, 2001, which states: "Above all in our time, man has unhesitatingly devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted the waters, deformed the earth,s habitat, made the air unbreathable, upset the hydrogeological and atmospheric systems, blighted green spaces, implemented uncontrolled forms of industrialization, humiliating -to use an image of Dante Alighieri (Paradiso XXII, 151) - the earth, that flower-bed that is our dwelling. It is necessary, therefore, to stimulate and sustain the 'ecological conversion,' which over these last decades has made humanity more sensitive when facing the catastrophe toward which it was moving." The campaign's organizers are Sr Michelle Balek, OSF, North America Region Coordinator for Franciscans International, based in Milwaukee, and Rich Bogovich, co-chair of the Human Concerns and Social Justice Commission of Saint Bernard's parish in Madison, Wisconsin. The two are teaming with Catholics across the country and anticipate branching out to involve Catholics worldwide. The group have already received endorsement from the American National Catholic Rural Life Conference and an interfaith environmental conference at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June called for measures to combat global warming and the new group is making this issue top of their agenda. Sr. Michelle, who attended the 1999 international global warming treaty negotiations in Germany as part of the Franciscans International delegation, said she was particularly moved during a meeting with representatives of smaller island nations, some of whose homelands were already being submerged due to rising sea levels. She said: "God has blessed us with natural resources to use wisely but has challenged us to protect them as well." For more information, contact Sister Michelle Balek at 414-294-0638, e-mail: srshell@fi-na.org, or Rich Bogovich at 608-268-1217, e-mail: bogovich@chorus.net.