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Catholic Commission Promoting “environmental justice” in Southern African Archdiocese

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale planting a tree at the opening of the season of creation. Credit: SACBC

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of South Africa’s Johannesburg (JHB) Archdiocese has embarked on a year-long “environmental justice” campaign under the theme, “Greening the Archdiocese of JHB”, an official has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa to mark the occasion of the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the Coordinator of the Johannesburg Archdiocese CCJP said, “We felt the need to do something to reach out to the communities, and the first thing that came to mind was environmental justice.”

“We approached the Archbishop of Johannesburg, and he gave us the green light to go ahead with the campaign. In most of our Township areas you rarely see a lot of trees or plantations. So, we dedicated ourselves in undertaking this campaign to green the Archdiocese between 2022 and 2023”, said Ntlantla Madinane in the Tuesday, October 4 interview.

Launched by Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale on August 19 during the Vigil Mass to mark the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the CCJP environmental campaign of greening the Archdiocese of Johannesburg by the end of the season of creation on 4 October 2023 has seen at least 300 trees planted in Catholic Parishes of the South African Archdiocese.

The CCJP Coordinator of Johannesburg Archdiocese told ACI Africa, “The first tree was planted by Archbishop Tlhagale at the Johannesburg Chancery, that was followed by the planting of six trees at St. Peter Catholic Church and three trees at John Martin Catholic School in Kagiso 1."

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“We are still getting deliveries of trees to some Parishes and by month end, we had around 300 trees planted in the Archdiocese. Our aim is to plant around 1,500 trees in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg by this time next year,” said Mr. Madinane.

Together with the Johannesburg City Parks, the CCJP aims to continue to plant at least 100 trees each month in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, Mr. Madinane further said.

He added during the October 4 interview about the ecumenical initiative for humanity to review relationship with the Creator, “Although today marked the end of the season of creation, we're continuing with the campaign till the next season of creation in 2023. Parishes and communities are encouraged to raise awareness about greening the Archdiocese.”

As the Catholic Church marked the end of the season of creation on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the Archdiocese of Johannesburg CCJP celebrated Holy Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Vanderbijlpark Parish, and planted trees as per the CCJP campaign of “Greening the Archdiocese of JHB”.

“It is an obligation for us to live up to the example of St. Francis in caring for the most neglected in our society, because they are our brothers and sisters. It is an obligation for us to speak for those who have little or no voice because they too are the children of God”, Mr. Madinane told ACI Africa.

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He continued, “We are encouraging communities not only to plant trees at Parishes, but to also start vegetable gardens in their homes and in the community.”

In the October 4 interview, the Johannesburg Archdiocese CCJP Coordinator said the next phase of the campaign would be to “have a quarterly focus drive on illegal dumping, to clean our open spaces and parks; that will be our focus.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.