Philippine bishops issue plea for 'ecological conversion'

Pastoral letter urges all dioceses to make protection of the environment a special concern
Philippine bishops issue plea for 'ecological conversion'

Contestants for Miss Earth Philippines join a campaign to replace single-use plastics with eco-friendly alternatives. One of the calls made by Catholic bishops in their pastoral letter on ecology released on July 16 is to eliminate single-use plastics. (Photo by Jire Carreon) 

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have made an "urgent call for ecological conversion" in a pastoral letter instructing dioceses to make caring for the environment a special concern.

The letter, released on July 16, said saving "our common home" is not only a Christian duty but a "moral imperative."

"This is our Christian duty and responsibility," said the letter titled "An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion: Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency."

"Societal indifference to climate change is immoral as it affects even the innocent, especially the poor," it added.

Church leaders said there is a need to act immediately as climate-related disasters "threaten us all," and especially because the Philippines "is prone to climate-induced disasters."

"We are at the doorstep of all major climate change threats which cause irreversible damage to agriculture, marine resources and entire bio-networks," the letter said.

As a concrete response to the call for activate climate action "on behalf of voiceless people and the planet," the bishops urged dioceses to set up an "ecology desk" in social action centers.

Dioceses and parishes are also told to spearhead and revitalize ecology programs and "commit to live the spirit and principles of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment Laudato si’.

Among the "concrete ecological actions" enumerated by the bishops for implementation is halting investment in "dirty energy" like coal.

"Do not allow the financial resources of our Catholic institutions to be invested in favor of coal-fired power plants, mining companies and other destructive extractive projects," the bishops said in the letter.

"Divestment from such investment portfolios must be encouraged," it added.

They also encouraged everyone to "live simply" and "minimize consumption" and to "actively promote ecological awareness and action" by segregating waste, minimizing the use of plastic and paper, and eliminating single-use plastics.

Laudato si' will now be integrated in the curriculum and strategic plans of Catholic schools, including seminaries and religious formations.

The bishops warned that the climate crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of people, is bound to get much worse in the years ahead. "We have to act in order to be able to stop the deterioration of our planet," read the prelates' letter.

In 1988, the Philippine bishops issued a groundbreaking pastoral letter on ecology titled "What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?"

Subsequent pastoral statements warned against the ill-effects of mining operations, the need to address the problem of water insecurity, and the challenges of global warming and climate change.

"In all these statements, we have taken for granted that concern for our environment is an essential dimension of our pastoral ministry," read the bishops' letter.

In 2016, Pope Francis expressed the need for environmental protection when he introduced the "care for our common home" as the eighth work of mercy, which the pontiff said should be corporal and spiritual.

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