Catholic environmentalists Mary Colwell and Ellen Teague led a day of reflection on Saturday in Salisbury, focusing on the imperatives in the 2015 environment encyclical of Pope Francis - Laudato Si'. Around 40 people attended the event, 'Laudato Si': A Call to Action', organised by Salisbury Justice and Peace Group and Clifton Diocese Justice and Peace Commission.
Participants came from as far afield as Bristol, Bath, Rochester, and Swindon, and the day was ecumenical, with Quakers and Anglicans, including two Anglican priests and a strong representation from Salisbury Cathedral's Justice and Peace Group. "We have peregrines on the Salisbury Cathedral spire" reported one of them. An advisor to Catholic schools in Salisbury said she wanted "as a Christian to find out what my responsibilities are towards addressing justice issues and environmental problems". Others said they simply wanted to be encouraged in their work to care for God's creation. Many had already studied the themes in Laudato Si' and were active in promoting "ecological conversion". One was involved in Salisbury's Transition Town Movement and participates regularly in the international webinars of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
Suggestions for personal change towards sustainable living included eating less meat, wasting less water and finding out more about virtual water. Using less plastic, particularly single use, was moving up priorities and supporting green electricity and public transport. The Laudato Si' Prayer would be brought back to parishes and consideration given to celebrating First Communion and Confirmations by planting trees. The livesimply award programme and eco-church were discussed. Many are involved in planning for Earth Day on 22 April and for Creation Time 1 September - 4 October. There was interest in the 'Joy in Enough' programme of Green Christians which looks at sustainable living.
Mary Colwell, an award-winning producer of programmes on nature and the environment, lamented the disconnection between human society and the natural world. "To me, God created this extraordinary universe which blows our minds with power, energy, diversity, constant transformations" she said; "the natural world speaks to me of what a wonderful God we have".
She led a reflection on the view from the venue's extensive windows, which overlooked a busy roundabout with the green oasis at its centre and a Church by the road. The Church was constructed using flint, an ancient building material, and perhaps built on an older site of worship. Cars whizzed round the noisy roundabout, prompting reflection on busy lives and the failure to slow down and appreciate nature. Within the roundabout bulbs could be seen appearing in the grass and Indian bean trees swayed in the wind, but there was little human access to the site. However, "we instinctively put nature back in our lives" reflected Mary, who has led a campaign to protect disappearing Curlews.
With Laudato Si' Pope Francis has brought the Catholic Church to the forefront of the ecology movement, according to Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC team. Pope Francis has added his extraordinary moral leadership to the fight against climate change, she said, quoting his words that, "the climate is a common good" and "there is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy". Pope Francis also says that, "living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience". Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.
Ellen highlighted campaigns to tackle the commodification of natural resources, particularly water, and to urge the UK government to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. She facilitated a group reflection on creation-centred spirituality, and quoted eco-theologian Thomas Berry's words that, "our fulfilment is not in isolated human grandeur but in our intimacy with the larger Earth community".
Clifton Diocese Justice and Peace Commission
ICN Review of Mary Colwell's Book on John Muir
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