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Bishops publish updated environment text

Patrick Hudson - The Tablet - Wed, Oct 5th 2022

The Call of Creation argues for a “profound interior conversion” to address the ecological crisis.

Bishops publish updated environment text

The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, is the lead for the environment for the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales/Mazur

The bishops of England and Wales have released a new edition of their teaching document on the environment, 20 years after it was first published.

The Call of Creation, issued on 4 October, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, calls for a “profound interior conversion” to address the ecological crisis, and the development of “a Christian spirituality of ecology” to form individuals and society.

In a joint foreword, the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, the bishops’ conference’s lead on the environment, and the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Richard Moth, who chairs the conference’s social justice department, emphasise “the urgency of needing to care properly for our common home”.  The document was completed amid UK summer temperatures which reached 40°C for the first time.

A Catholic response to the crisis, they write, “does not see it as simply a series of individual problems that need to be solved but rather the result of a broken relationship with God’s creation”.

They continue: “If we have a disordered relationship with creation, we commit what the Pope has described as ‘ecological sins’ through acts and habits that pollute and destroy the harmony of the environment thereby undermining our shared duty of stewardship of the natural world as a gift from God for past, present and future generations.”

The document makes substantial revisions to the original 2002 text, issued in anticipation of that year’s World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which argued “that solidarity must, in a genuine sense, extend to nature itself”.

“It is of great concern that the challenges in this area are even more stark today,” the new edition observes. The 2022 text integrates the teaching of Pope Francis, especially his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, into the Scripture and tradition cited in the original document.

This includes the Pope's idea of an “ecological sin”, which he has defined as “an action or omission against God, against one's neighbour, the community and the environment...a sin against future generations”.

“We must avoid the temptation of assuming that environmental challenges will be avoided by the development of technology so that our behaviour is excused,” says the new text. “We must also be aware of the relationship between what Pope Johan Paul II described as ‘human ecology’ and caring for our common home. It makes no sense to care about the natural environment whilst not respecting life from conception until natural death or using invasive technology to interfere with the process of conception.”

The revised document also demands a new political approach to the environment, from both governments and electors: “Ultimately, all countries need to find ways to revise the meaning of ‘progress’ and ‘growth’ so that progress towards human flourishing and a healthy planet are not in conflict.”

Catholic parishes, dioceses and schools, it says, have a central role to play in this.

The Call of Creation calls for Catholics to commit personally to act on the ecological crisis, because “our individual actions are not only important in themselves: they help promote a change in culture”.

It emphasises that “without a real conversion that ensures that changing moral attitudes are reflected in behaviour so that we have lifestyles that focus on ‘being’ rather than ‘having’, the tide will not be turned”.

The feast of St Francis, patron saint of animals and ecologists, also marks the end of the Season of Creation, the liturgical season when the Church prays particularly for the environment, which began on 1 September.

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