Q: Archbishop J, why all this fuss about creation?
In his now celebrated encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis put a spotlight on the destruction we cause to the creation. He calls creation “our common home”. This is a wonderful image. We have one home. It belongs to all of us. It also belongs to the generations who are yet unborn.
For Pope Francis, as for his predecessors, we are stewards of creation: not owners, but stewards. A steward holds another’s property in trust on behalf of the owner. As such we hold the creation in trust on behalf of God and those who are yet unborn. We must take proper care of it and ensure we hand on the earth in a better condition than how we received it.
Our common home is in peril. This must concern all of us! The Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) in its 2015 Declaration on Climate Change, says:
We recognise that climate change represents a significant threat to the sustainability of Caribbean life as we know it. Our nations are already impacted by unusual heavy rainfall, warmer temperatures, prolonged periods of drought, rising sea levels and the prospect of more intense storm events. Though we concentrate on the Caribbean region we are mindful that we are part of a planet. The scientists have told us that nature has been damaged to an unprecedented degree. Pope John Paul II referred to the ‘ecological crisis as a moral problem’ (7).
The bishops note, “Changes in temperature and rainfall negatively impact the productivity of agriculture, storms become more frequent, more devastating, such as Katrina, Ivan, Sandy and the devastating rains that struck the Eastern Caribbean in 2013” (4).
In 2017, three particularly destructive hurricanes affected the Caribbean: Irma, Jose, and Maria. Some estimate the total destruction of these three to be very near US$300 billion. This year, Dorian has unleashed its fury on The Bahamas.
The last 19 years have been the hottest on record, each year surpassing the record of the year before.
Whether we like it or not, we are in a cycle of climate change and it is having a devastating impact on Caribbean life as we know it. The Caribbean is the second most vulnerable region on the planet to climate change.
We are seeing this already in the destruction we experienced in 2017 and 2019. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Puerto Rico (1) and Dominica (3) were among ten countries most affected by climate change in 2017.
The heart of the problem
Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, says:
The ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience (217).
The destruction of creation is a moral problem. It is a human problem, a problem of sin and greed and hubris. Until we are willing to accept this fact we cannot move forward.
Our treatment of the environment is sinful. At its heart it is a deeply spiritual challenge. How we treat the environment is an extension of how we treat others, especially the most vulnerable. It is a reflection of the poverty of our civilisation. We do not have a second home!
To address this challenge, a special synod of the Amazon takes place in Rome, October 6 to 27. Its purpose: to find “new ways for the evangelisation of that portion of the People of God, especially of the Indians, often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also because of the crisis of the Amazon forest, a lung of fundamental importance for our planet.” This synod is of great importance to us. Our three dioceses in the Guyanas (Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname) are participating in the synod.
What can we do?
Pope Francis recently declared September 1, as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, marking the beginning of ‘Creation Time’, which runs until October 4, Feast of St Francis of Assisi.
This ‘Season of Creation’, first observed by the Orthodox Church in 1989, and embraced by Pope Francis in 2015, is an ecumenical season dedicated to prayer for the protection of creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. This year’s theme is The web of life.
This is a great time to reflect on our vocation as stewards of God’s creation.
Either join or encourage young people to participate in ‘The Season of Creation Challenge’— a creative challenge among youth in Catholic schools AND parishes. If you have skills in: video/photo journalism, poetry, Spoken Word or any creative art form participate in this challenge and raise awareness among your generation.
The St Francis Canticle Creation Award Ceremony will take place on Saturday, November 9, at Holy Name Convent (Secondary) where the various projects will be celebrated.
The Challenge is just one of many activities promoted in the Caribbean by the Franciscan Institute, a ministry of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.
Since 2018, the Institute has collaborated with Global Catholic Climate Movement, Season of Creation, Laudato Si’ Generation, local churches and organisations in Grenada, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, in sponsoring the Challenge.
We are baptised and sent to protect all peoples and the environment as stewards of our common home.
Key Message: Creation needs stewards who will call others to conversion of heart to protect it and all vulnerable peoples.
Action Step: Participate in the day of prayer for creation October 4. Young people use your talent to participate in the season of creation challenge.
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1