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Filipino Catholics' care for environment found wanting

Church leaders call for 'common plan' to protect all of the natural world

Mark Saludes, Manila

Mark Saludes, Manila

Updated: October 06, 2016 04:29 AM GMT
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Filipino Catholics' care for environment found wanting

Church and pro-environment groups mark the last day of the observance of the Catholic Church's "Season of Creation" with a Mass and the blessing of pets led by Bishop Deogracias Iniquez on Oct. 4. (Photo by Mark Saludes)


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Philippine church leaders have called for a "common plan" to protect the "common home of all creations" during the observance of the last day of the "Season of Creation" on Oct. 4.

Father Dexter Toledo, head of the Ecological Justice Movement, said that "in terms of Filipino response to the call to protect the earth, we are on a passing rate." 

"We only take care of our immediate home, our immediate environment," said the Franciscan priest. "Our approach is relatively domestic," he said.

"We must go beyond that boundaries that were set up by our domestic thinking," Father Toledo told ucanews.com. 

He said Pope Francis called the earth "our common home" to emphasize the need to take care of all creation.

"More importantly we must have a unified plan, and by having a plan of action for the environment, we also need to look after the common good," said Father Toledo.


Call to divest from dirty business

Columban Father John Leydon, co-convener of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, appealed to church-run businesses to divest their funds invested in mining, coal, and other dirty energy projects.

"These divestments are an important step toward fulfilling the promise and the call of Laudato si'," the priest said. 

Father Leydon said world leaders have already spoken about "the need for climate action."

"The time is now," he said, adding that people must recognize the need to engage in "respectful and transformative relationships with God's creation."

On July 16, four Catholic organizations announced that they were divesting funds in coal, oil, and gas companies to support the case against dirty energy.

In a statement, the Global Catholic Climate Movement said the Marist Sisters in Australia, Presentation Congregation of Queensland and Wagga Wagga, and the Passionist Holy Spirit Province in Australia, New Zealand, Papua, and Vietnam, "abandoned fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy."

Father Leydon said the Global Catholic Climate Movement expects more Catholic organizations will follow.

"Philippine dioceses that have investments in these businesses are beginning to realize the importance of divestment," he said, adding that several church institutions have already sold their stocks and invested in renewable energy.


'Laudato si' as inspiration

"Let Laudato si' inspire us and teach us how to take care of each other," said Bishop Deogracias Iniquez, retired prelate of Kalookan.

The prelate called on Filipino Catholics "to strive harder and place ourselves into the path of ecological conversion," adding that "greed that pushes big corporations to abuse nature" is one of the root causes of poverty.

Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc., called on the Philippine government "to intensify its war against destructive extraction," which she described as the "peace-breaker" in rural areas.

"Because we don't take good care of our natural resources, people living in our mountains and rainforests are forced to vacate their natural habitat to give way to mining and other destructive development," Esguerra said.

Regina Lopez, newly appointed head of the Philippine's Department of Environment, vowed to use Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato si' as her guide in governance and in implementing environmental laws.

Since Lopez assumed office in July, at least 20 mining companies have been suspended from operating after violations were discovered in an audit.

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