Catholics highlight issue of climate finance outside Bishops Conference

On Monday 14th November, members of the activist group Catholics for Christian Climate Action were joined by a number of Bishops as they kept vigil outside on the first day of the Bishops of England and Wales Autumn Plenary Meeting at Hinsley Hall, Headingly, Leeds. The group sat down in front of the conference venue in prayer for vital global financial assistance for the poorest and most vulnerable countries affected by climate change. They held a banner reading “Loss and Damage is a Pro-Life Issue” referring to the effects of the harm caused by human-generated climate change and a contemporary icon of Mary Mother of Mercy.

The group was asking the Bishops to speak out to the UK Government about paying the debt owed to these vulnerable countries by the UK as a result of its share of historic and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions which have led to the current climate crisis. They were also asking the Bishops to call on the Catholic faithful to raise the profile of this issue by means of a pastoral letter and to encourage the showing of the film The Letter recently released by the Laudato Si Movement in partnership with The Vatican Dicasteries of Communications and of Integral Human Development [1].

Prior to the plenary meeting the group had sent a letter [2] to each of the Bishops setting out the background to their concerns which was signed on a personal basis by fifty Catholics from a variety of campaigning groups including Catholics for Christian Climate Action, the Laudato Si Animators UK,  the National Justice and Peace Network, and Green Christian. They also invited the Bishops to join them in prayer on the day and a number of Bishops came to pray with them before the afternoon session when Bishop John Arnold was due to speak on the Environment. including:

  • Rt. Rev. John Arnold Bishop of Salford CBEW Spokesperson for the Environment,
  • Rt. Rev. Stephen Wright Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham
  • Rt. Rev. Ralph Heskett Bishop of Hallam
  • Rt. Rev. Robert Byrne Bishop of Hexham

After praying with the group Bishop John Arnold said:

‘We must all take our part in facing a crisis which is global and we all have a part to play in repairing the damage and living in hope as Christians using the gospel values to promote a healthy future in which everyone may prosper.’

The vigil was taking place four weeks after the Catholic Bishops in Africa described climate change as “a moral outrage” which has plunged many populations on the African continent into deep suffering and naming it as a striking example of structural sin [3].

Melanie Nazareth of Catholics For Christian Climate Action and one of the signatories of the letter, who was at the prayer vigil in Leeds, said:

‘People in the poorest and most vulnerable countries are suffering and dying as a result of a climate meltdown which is the responsibility of richer countries. We must speak out on this if we truly believe that all life is sacred. The Church should be addressing climate finance for the poor as a pro-life issue.’

Columban Sr. Kate Midgley, who was also present, said:

‘I’m here today because humanity is at a Kairos moment and to pray that our Bishops may be emboldened to shout from the rooftops the need for every Catholic in this country to take action to protect our precious earth and the lives of all the people who are suffering in the global south right now and all future generations just as Pope Francis is urging us to do.’

Columba Timmins a Laudato Si Animator and Environmental Lead Hallam Diocese’ who signed the lette’r said:

‘Jesus told us that what we do to the least of our brothers we do for him. That is why I signed the letter. We need to honour our obligations to the countries on the frontline of climate change.’

Barbara Wilson, who is part of Green Christian, said:

‘Catholics have long been at the forefront of demanding justice for all God’s people. I’m here because we must stand up again and follow the example of Pope Francis in speaking out for climate finance justice for the poor and vulnerable.’

NOTES

[1] The Letter – A message for our Earth https://theletterfilm.org 

[2] The text of the letter is available here https://docs.google.com/document/d/1M_B3sATxlG1A4sDvN_IZifslBKfjTTCTu4istDp8XZQ/edit  

[3] https://www.aciafrica.org/news/6870/climate-change-is-structural-sin-bishops-in-africa-say-demand-world-leaders-action

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