, 15 May, 2020 / 4:29 AM
Plans are underway in Africa to mark the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si’ through a series of activities, which the Global Catholic Climate Movement in Africa (GCCM Africa) is spearheading amid COVID-19 restrictions, officials involved in organizing the weeklong event dubbed “Laudato Si’ Week” have told ACI Africa.
Joining Catholics across the globe for the May 16-24 event upon the invitation of the Holy Father on March 3, the Nairobi-based GCCM Africa leadership has organized Webinars, Online prayers and a tree planting ceremony among other activities, the Programs Manager, Fr. Benedict Ayodi told ACI Africa Thursday, May 14.
“We have organized an online prayer service for the whole continent of Africa,” Fr. Benedict said, adding that the Saturday, May 16 service will be presided over by Bishop Charles Kasonde, the chairman of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and the Local Ordinary of Solwezi Diocese in Zambia.
“On Sunday the 17th of May, we will have what we call the Laudato Si’ Mass,” Fr. Benedict, a member of the Order of Franciscans Minor, Capuchin (OFM Cap.) said and explained, “This is a unique Mass that we will do in open air where we can listen to creation, the trees and the birds moving around.”
There will be a tree planting ceremony on Monday, 18 at GCCM Africa offices within St. Jude Capuchin Friary in the Westlands area of Nairobi, to be presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen, Fr. Benedict told ACI Africa, adding that Pope’s representative in Kenya will plant an indigenous tree.
The GCCM Africa Programs Manager went on to explain the significance of having the Apostolic Nuncio grace the May 18 tree planting ceremony saying, “This event is based on an Encyclical written by the Pope and the Nuncio is the representative of the Pope in any given country. He is more symbolic in terms of connecting the Vatican and the Encyclical.”
On the same day, Fr. Benedict said various Africa-based Catholic organizations will announce their divestiture from fossil fuel.
Published June 18, 2015, the Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’ is borrowed from St. Francis of Assisi’s medieval Italian prayer, the Canticle of the Sun, which praised God through creation such as Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Our sister Mother Earth.
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls for the care of the earth, laments about environmental degradation and global warming and criticizes consumerism. The Holy Father also calls for an immediate and global action to rectify the ills being experienced.
The celebrations of the 5th anniversary of the Papal Encyclical is being guided by the theme, “Everything is connected”
According to Fr. Benedict, the theme was derived from COVID-19 crisis in view of emphasizing “our interconnectedness as a global community and the need for solidarity around the world.”
“In Laudato Si’, the Pope speaks about our interconnectedness; the Pope speaks about us being a web of connections and that if we disturb one part of the web, the other part of the web gets affected,” the Kenyan-born Cleric reiterated.
Explaining the interconnectedness between nature and humanity, the Capuchin Friar said, “It is alleged that COVID-19 started in a market selling animals. So, you can see how something from animals affects the human.”
“Something we thought was a Chinese problem, the small thing that started in Wuhan-China is now in a small village in Western Kenya, it is in the remotest parts of the world,” he remarked in reference to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world.
“The Pope talks about our common home because we breathe the same air. If we destroy the Amazon and they are the lungs of the earth, the effects will be felt everywhere,” Fr. Benedict said and added, “We are experiencing floods, the locusts; this could be a problem caused elsewhere. Maybe we did not participate in the pollution but we are feeling the effects.”
On his part, the Communications Coordinator for GCCM Africa, Br. Stephen Otieno Makagutu, told ACI Africa that prior to COVID-19 restrictions, plans were underway to have activities that would bring together crowds of people.
GCCM Africa had partnered with other organizations to plan for a climate match, feeding the poor, launching Laudato Si’ clubs in schools and environmental cleaning activities, Br. Stephen, a Capuchin Friar said May 12.
The Kenyan-born Friar called on individuals and families to undertake activities that care for the environment such as planting of trees and flowers and "to evaluate how much they use electricity, water and to think about using clean energy.”
GCCM Africa is an affiliate of GCCM, the Rome-based international network of Catholic people and 900 member organizations, all working together “to better care for our common home.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa