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Catholic Bishops in Ghana Launch Five-Year Laudato Si’ Program to “prepare for the future”

Apostolic Nuncio in Ghana, Archbishop Henryk Jagodzinski, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer Buckle and other dignitaries launching the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) five-year Laudato si Action Programme (LSAP). Credit: Newswatchgh.com

Members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference (GCBC) have launched a five-year Laudato Si’ Action Program (LSAP) that aims at spearheading the transformation of society through environmental conservation initiatives. 

At the Wednesday, November 24 event, the Episcopal Promoter of the GCBC LSAP said the project is inspired by Pope Francis’ teachings on the care for the environment in his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’

“The program is about preparing for the future now,” Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle said, noting that GCBC members are taking the LSAP “seriously in order to prepare and contribute to whatever the Holy Father is asking us; not just to save the ecology but also to save humanity.”

LSAP aims at sustaining GCBC’s annual tree planting exercise "by mobilizing all our ecclesial communities in our Diocese and parish levels as well as all our lay societies to take concrete action," Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said during the event held at the GCBC National Secretariat in Accra.

In May, Catholic Bishops in the West African country launched a one million tree planting exercise to mark the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ and to contribute to the government's projects. 

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The annual tree planting initiative is also in support of the government's Green Ghana project that was launched in April.

At the November 24 event, the Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said that the GCBC LSAP will “proactively see partnership with government and other faith-based groups in Ghana to agree on a framework of working together to address national, environmental concerns and other issues for the transformation of our society and our common home.”

“Our future hangs in a very precarious balance and therefore let us prepare truly for the future,” said the Local Ordinary of Ghana’s Cape Coast Archdiocese. 

The GCBC LSAP borrows from the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a multi-year plan, which Pope Francis launched in May to foster the sustainability of communities in the spirit of Integral Ecology that he advocated for in his Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’.    

Speaking at the LSAP launch, the Coordinator of Ecology at the Vatican Dicastery of Integral Human Development, Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, said Pope Francis’ initiative is a response to the cry of the earth to address the urgent climate injustices.  

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“Scientists are afraid that we are crossing tipping points. The urgency to act is highly felt,” Fr. Kureethadam said, and added, “Pope Francis always tells us not to wait for the future but to prepare for the future together. Together we can prepare for the future we want.” 

Similar to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, the Vatican official further said, the LSAP by members of the GCBC is a response to the cry of the earth and the poor, ecological economics, adaptation of simple lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality and community engagement and participation action.

LSAP will only be realized by “walking the synodal path, by doing it together,” Fr. Kureethadam noted. 

On his part, the Apostolic Nuncio in Ghana expressed hope that the GCBC LSAP will create a new culture of spirituality, care in the world and in the West African nation.

“The plan truly presents an integrated approach to human development namely: spiritual, economic, social, physical, logical. This will help the Catholic Church in Ghana to better demonstrate integral human development as defined in Catholic Social teachings,” Archbishop Henryk Mieczysław Jagodziński said in reference to the LSAP.

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The Pope’s representative also recommended that GCBC members develop an “integrated reporting framework” for the newly-launched initiative.

Speaking during the November 24 event, the Secretary General of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) described the GCBC initiative as “a struggle for life and justice, a struggle embodying the struggles of the Church for social and ecological justice.”

“In Ghana there is currently a lawsuit against the State with the purpose of inviting the government to protect the seed from corporate capture and to ensure the people’s rights to food and nutrition,” Fr. Joseph Aka said.

The legal suit, Fr. Aka added, “is a call to the government to repeal a patent protection law in Ghana that peasants fear will criminalize them for saving, using, exchanging, selling modified and their own seeds and lead to the extension of corporate control over Ghanaian agriculture and food system.”

“The GCBC LSAP is an example that Bishops Conferences in the region must imitate and emulate,” the Secretary General of RECOWA said.

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On his part, the Secretary General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) described the LSAP of the GCBC members as a “laudable initiative” and invited Catholic Bishops across the continent to replicate it in their respective national and regional conferences.

Fr. Terwase Henry Akaabiam who recognized the Holy Father's messages and actions that promote the care for “our common home” and human dignity also called on the people of God in Africa to heed Pope Francis' appeals and “take action” to conserve the environment.

“We cannot just listen to the Holy Father and fold our hands. We should listen and take action. It is about action, not talk,” Fr. Akaabiam said.

The Nigerian-born Priest went on to highlight some of the actions that the people of God in Africa can engage in to promote human dignity and care for the earth.

“We must be willing to help others who are in need, not just talking when there are needy people all across the continent. We must take cognizance of their cry,” the Secretary General of SECAM said, and added that Christians should also participate in environmental cleaning projects.

Citing the Kampala Document (KD) in which the Catholic Bishops in Africa advocate for the reduction of sound pollution,  Fr. Akaabiam  said, “There is too much noise and when we make too much noise, it is difficult for others to sleep well, hence we can't live well. Let us be willing to address this issue.” 

“Pope Francis describes the earth as mother. Nobody disrespects a mother because doing so creates a cultural danger. Similarly let us respect and treat mother earth with dignity,” the Secretary General of SECAM said during the November 24 event.