Shun “cosmetic solutions” to Climate Change: Vatican Cardinal to Bishops in Eastern Africa

AMECEA Bishops at Opening Mass. Credit: ACI Africa

A Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization has urged delegates of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) who are meeting to reflect on the care for the environment in the region to interrogate causes of climate change instead of dwelling on the effects of environmental degradation.

Speaking Sunday, July 10 during Holy Eucharist to mark the official opening of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said that spending a lot of time probing effects of the destruction of the environment will only result in “cosmetic solutions” that do not help in environmental conservation.

“I encourage all those who will be participating in this Plenary to confront the root causes of environmental degradation. It is not enough to look just at the effects of climate change. Otherwise, we will propose cosmetic solutions, which will not change anything,” Cardinal Tagle said.

The Vatican-based Cardinal who is the guest of honor of the 20th AMECEA Plenary Assembly added, “A cosmetic solution does not change reality.”

Section of AMECEA Bishops. Credit: ACI Africa


The 2022 AMECEA Plenary Assembly has brought together over 100 Catholic Bishops from nine AMECEA countries, which include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

In their discussions on the theme, “Environmental Impact on Integral Human Development”, Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa are set to reflect on the gains on the care for the environment in the region, and engaging with international experts on environmental issues, seek to find ways of designing a strategy that will see them implement Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, even more.

In his homily during Holy Mass to open the AMECEA Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Tagle reminded the people of God in the Eastern African region to always see Christ in all of God’s creation and to stop destroying nature.

“Why waste creation? Why destroy creation? Don’t we see the presence of Christ through whom, in whom and for whom everything was created?” he probed, and added, “Everything was created through Christ, in Christ and for Christ. Everything contains the living and active presence of Jesus.”

AMECEA Bishops on Mass procession. Credit: ACI Africa

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“Nothing is distant from God’s presence because everything has been created through Christ. Every blade of grass, every flower, every leaf, every breath of fresh air, the person next to you, the person far from you, everything speaks of the presence of the invisible presence of God made visible in Jesus. And the beautiful thing is that the eternal word through which everything was made became flesh,” the 65-year-old Filipino Cardinal said.

The Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery that has merged the former Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization underscored the closeness of God to His people through nature, saying, “God is near through Jesus, if only we could see Him, if only we could see His activity through His creation.”

Relaying the Holy Father’s message of goodwill to the people of God in Eastern Africa, Cardinal Tagle said, “I bring you greetings of love and peace from Pope Francis. I was with the Holy Father and he said, ‘Give them my love and peace.’”

Meanwhile, speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Holy Mass for the opening the AMECEA Plenary Assembly, the President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), the host of the Bishops’ meeting, regretted the fact that not everyone is heeding to Pope Francis’ call to protect the environment.

Section of AMECEA Plenary Assembly Delegates. Credit: ACI Africa


“Despite the Holy Father’s extensive call to protect our common home, there is still wide-scale deforestation. Water levels are getting lower and lower and people in many parts of the world cannot get good quality water. The quality of soil is also getting lower and lower and the air is getting dirtier,” Archbishop Gervas Mwasikwabhila Nyaisonga said. 

Archbishop Nyaisonga added, “If we have to, we must shout for everyone to hear us and to act responsibly. Environmental care is a cross-cutting issue and a responsibility for all of us.”

The Local Ordinary of Tanzania’s Mbeya Archdiocese noted that the Church has an even bigger role to play in the care for the environment.

Countries of AMECEA. Credit: ACI Africa

He said, “We have to be on the forefront in educating others, on the forefront in informing others, and in advising them to take action. As a Church, we have to lead by example in the care for our common home.” 

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The Chairman of AMECEA, Bishop Charles Sampa Kasonde noted that every meeting of Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa becomes an opportunity for the Church in the region to express solidarity. 

Bishop Kasonde said that it was the dream of the founding fathers of AMECEA “that all the Bishops in the region journey together in solidarity”.

In his welcome address to delegates of the Plenary Assembly, the Bishop of Solwezi Diocese in Zambia said, “Let us make this 20th Plenary a special ecological moment for the Church in Eastern Africa. It is my prayer that guided by the spirit of that pastoral solidarity, each one of us will play their role to make this gathering a successful convocation.”

“It is also my prayer that this Plenary Assembly within this week becomes a spirit-filled moment of grace and discernment so that by the end of it all, each one of us goes back to our respective Conferences reenergized and motivated, and to continue walking the path of new evangelization as the Holy Father Pope Francis always insists, and guided by the message in the Encyclical Laudato Si’,” the Chairman of AMECEA said.

He urged delegates of the Plenary Assembly that is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, July 17 with Holy Mass to pray for those going through various hardships in the AMECEA region and beyond.

“As we come together as one family of God, let us use this opportunity to meditate and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of wars, political intolerance and lack of economic freedom,” Bishop Kasonde said.

Bishops at Opening Mass. Credit: ACI Africa

He added, “Guided by the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and peaceful co-existence, let us remember in a special way, those who are deprived of these fundamental human values in our region and beyond.”

The Zambian Catholic Bishop underlined the urgent need to preserve the environment, saying, “May God inspire us, talk to us and whisper to us on the preservation of our environment and also maintain the green economy.”

In his address during the July 10 event, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan lauded what he referred to as the beauty of the Catholic Church in Eastern Africa, which he said is complete with “people from many countries and with different languages.”

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen said, “You heard in the prayers of the faithful how many different languages were used. Languages of the different countries of AMECEA.”

“I think one language was missing- Arabic. We should look into Arabic probably in our next meeting because it is part of AMECEA spoken in northern Sudan,” the Nairobi-based Nuncio who previously represented the Holy Father in Sudan and Eritrea added.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.