Livesimply event attracts nearly 1,000 people - 19 March 2008

 The work of the Livesimply network was celebrated in Manchester last weekend with a day-long gathering of sixth formers and a separate adult event which brought together around 900 people in all. A number of high-profile speakers gave talks and led debates on faith issues and climate change during the two days, which also featured liturgies, live music and drama.

Livesimply is a network of 60 Catholic organisations and ecumenical partners ­ including CAFOD, Progressio, Pax Christi and the National Justice and Peace Network - which calls on people in the UK to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with those living in poverty. Most were represented in Manchester, and the event was also well supported by Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth and Bishop John Arnold of Westminster.

On Saturday The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, gave the key-note speech during which he told the audience to think about the way they lead their lives, putting the emphasis on sharing with others. "God has graciously given everything on earth that we might share it with others" he said; "What I'm talking about is an attitude to life".

Fr Jim O'Keefe, a Hexham and Newcastle priest and former president of Ushaw College who chairs the Livesimply network, called for participants to continue to identify those forces which destroy balance and harmony in the world. He also suggested seeking ways to learn more from other parts of the world and urged more Church gatherings focused on celebrating and on affirming each other.

Catholic environmentalist Mary Colwell, who works for the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, suggested Christians need to recover their intimate relationship with the natural world and develop a religious system which supports this. "Some of my colleagues see the rise of large-scale religion as part of the problem" she said; "who cares about molluscs when we have our eyes on heaven!" Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, felt society should move away from seeing security in a purely militaristic way, and spend resources on protecting life, whether vulnerable humans or damaged eco-systems.

Sixth-form students from around the country, including Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and St, Angela's Ursuline Convent in East London had the opportunity to work out the size of their carbon footprint in a climate change gym, watch an eco-friendly fashion show and find out how to lobby their MP about climate change. They pledged to become local leaders and share the messages they had learnt with fellow students at their schools and colleges. Stephanie Clieve, aged 17, from Carmel College in St Helens, said: "Today has been so informative because you always think: 'I can't make a difference, I'm just one person' but, actually, today I have thought: 'I can do something'."

CAFOD director, Chris Bain, said: "Many people came wanting to share their experiences of the Livesimply challenge and they have been rewarded with an amazing, inspiring and energising two days. They have realised through Livesimply that they need to look at how they live their lives in the future, in a world of poverty and potential climactic disaster." CAFOD, which has seen first-hand the effect climate change is already having on the world's poorest communities, is calling on MPs to support a stronger Climate Change Bill when it is debated in the House of Commons next month.

Livesimply was set up to mark the 40th anniversary of Pope John Paul VI's encyclical, Populorum Progressio. To find out more visit

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