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Laudado Si’ Week: African Cleric Outlines Church’s Role in Safeguarding “our common home”

A poster announcing the May 26 webinar on the recently launched Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP). Credit: Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM)/Facebook

As part of the “Laudato Si’ Week” aimed at marking the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the environment, a Catholic Priest in Africa has outlined ways that the Church on the continent can implement the recently launched Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP).

Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) coordinated the launching of LSAP on Tuesday, May 25 as a seven-year action plan to implement environmental sustainability in different sectors of the Church including religious congregations, hospitals, and schools. 

While launching LSAP, Pope Francis underscored the need for humanity to find “new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world, our styles of life, our relationship with the resources of the Earth and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and of living life.”

In his message during the Wednesday, May 26 webinar, the second Deputy Secretary General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) urged Church leaders in Africa to raise awareness and educate the people about Laudato Si’, coordinate activities in line with DPIHD’s directives, revitalize associations, and collaborate with different organizations. 

“Bishops' Conferences and each local Church must ensure this coordination in order to create a synergy within each church in order to achieve the communion in the Church which is already coordinated by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development,” Fr. Jean Germain Rajoelison said during the virtual event.

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Making reference to the Church’s role of raising awareness about Laudato Si’, Fr. Rajoelison said, “In the Church, many people have heard of Laudato Si’ but it is a question of making them aware of the importance of the Pope's teaching in today's world, which is marked by relativism and religious indifference.”

Such awareness, he went on to say, will help the people of God on the continent to know the dangers that threaten the earth and take action to “adopt a responsible attitude in social life and in everyday life, and in our relationship with nature and the environment.”

Church leaders in Africa will need to educate the people on the benefits of creating “a harmonious, environmentally conscious society,” Fr. Rajoelison further said at the May 26 virtual event, which the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) Africa organized in collaboration with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and SECAM.

In educating the people of God in Africa, Church leaders “have to think and reflect on how to integrate the objectives from the Dicastery of Integral Human Development in Rome into the Diocesan pastoral work,” the official of SECAM said.

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He highlighted the need for Church leaders in Africa to “revitalize Catholic movements or associations so that they join the platform proposed by the dicastery” as well as “accompany the associations and movements of the Christian communities so that they experience ecological conversion underpinned by a spirituality inspired by the Bible and Laudato Si’.”

The Ghana-based Catholic Priest who hails from Madagascar further highlighted the need for Church leaaders in Africa to establish “networks of initiative concerning the collaboration with the other religious confession and all those who work for the inter-religious dialogue.”

“Envisage initiatives and partnerships to resolve issues relating to social justice and to provide assistance to the poor and to all those who live in situations of fragility, and finally to carry out advocacy and lobbying activities with political and economic decision-makers in order to make the voice of the Church and the cry of the poor heard,” Fr. Rajoelison said.

In his message during the May 26 event, GCCM Africa’s Program Coordinator, Fr. Benedict Ayodi, underscored the centrality of the five-year-old Papal Encyclical Letter saying, “Laudato Si’ goals guide our actions, they redefine and rebuild our relationship with each other and our common home. They call for a spiritual and cultural revolution to realize integral ecology.”

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Through the LSAP, Fr. Ayodi said, humanity will be “walking in the path of renewal together.” 

The Kenya-based Priest described Laudato Si’ as the response to the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor, ecological economics, the adoption of sustainable lifestyle ecological education, ecological spirituality, community engagement and participatory action. 

On his part, the AMECEA Coordinator for the Department of Promoting Integral Human Development (PIHD), Fr. Paul Mung’athia Igweta, highlighted the different angles from which Laudato Si’ can be understood, including political, pastoral, interreligious, as well the viewpoint of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Focusing on SDGs, Fr. Igweta said that the Church can ensure access to safe water sources and sanitation for all outlined in the “Clean Water and Sanitation” goal by keeping the government accountable and investing in “water research, development.”

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The Nairobi-based Priest further said that the goal of “Affordable and Clean Energy” can be achieved if the people of God on the continent take advantage of “renewable energy resources, prioritizing energy-efficient practices and adopting clean energy technologies and infrastructure.”

The SDG on Climate Action can be reached by encouraging the implementation of the “3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) of sustainability into practice,” Fr. Igweta recommended.

“Our mission as the Church is to reduce emissions. We should consume less and take advantage of second-hand markets to give new life to items that we don’t use anymore. We should avoid using materials that cannot be recycled,” the member of Clergy of Kenya’s Meru Diocese said.

He added, “We need to conserve and sustainably use the world oceans, seas and marine resources. We should make ocean-friendly choices. We should eliminate plastic usage as much as possible and organize beach clean-ups.”

Most importantly, Fr. Igweta said, “We can spread the message about how important marine life is and why we need to protect it.”

“Each one of us has a positive role to contribute towards this environment,” the Kenyan Priest said during the May 26 virtual event.