Catholic religious leaders in the Philippines “humbly” admitted what they described as “faults” committed against nature.
They asked for God’s “forgiveness and healing” during an online event to mark the end of the weeklong observance of Laudato si’ Week on Sunday, May 24.
“When the world gets sick, we all get sick,” said Franciscan priest Dexter Toledo, former executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).
He said the coronavirus pandemic had “awakened the sense that we are all in this together,” adding that it took “one invisible enemy to remind us all of how vulnerable we all are.”
Catholics marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment titled Laudato si’ this week and pledged to take steps in a better care for creation.
Laudato si is Pope Francis’ first encyclical on environment that urges “swift and unified global action” on climate degradation.
This year, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development called for a yearlong celebration starting May 25.
In a statement, the Vatican office stressed the need for an “integral approach” to global problems “taking into account every aspect of the global (health) crisis” brought about by the pandemic.
Father Toledo said the challenge is not to go back to normal, “but to go back to our lives with new perspective and vision” even after the pandemic.
“We hope that once we are back on track, we shall look back on 2020 as a time for wonderful realization that if we move together in unison, we can see a more beautiful world and a just and humane society,” he said.
The priest said the world is “never our own,” adding that the it “owns us all together.”
He said that the challenge for humanity now is “not to go back to our old prearranged lives but to live our lives with a new perspective and vision.”
“And this is only possible if we learn the true meaning of contemplation … to gaze at everything and to see it with God’s eyes,” he said.
“It is our time to get our lives back on track with a much closer bond with nature. Perhaps, it is indeed true that sometimes, we need to get sick before we start feeling better,” said the priest.
Laudato si’ revolution
The AMRSP said the launch of the the “#LSRevolution: Laudato si’ Revolution Campaign” is a response to the call of Pope Francis “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
The religious group said the global campaign aims to “encourage and promote integral ecological conversion.”
“We don’t need to be politicians or to be someone who has a position in society to help,” said Father Angelito Cortez, AMRSP executive secretary.
He said even the most simple way of helping and feeding the poor, especially those in the frontlines in the fight against the new coronavirus disease, “is a sign that God is moving in the lives of each one of us.”
“The campaign aims to bring out concrete ecological actions, primarily, within our own congregations,” said the Franciscan priest.
The campaign includes a program to secure the commitment of more religious orders in the country to divest from fossil fuels and promote renewable energy.
“It also aims to encourage religious congregations to live the simplest life inside the convent and in the mission areas to show and teach the Catholic faithful to do the same,” said Father Cortez.
Sister Happy Montecillio of the Daughters of Saint Anne, co-executive secretary of the AMRSP, said it is not too late “to come together and respond to the cry of the earth and the poor.”
The nun said everyone should realize that “our mission as Christians includes our vocation as stewards of the earth.”
Pope Francis, meanwhile, called on the faithful to participate in the observance of the Laudato si’ Year as he released a special prayer to accompany the celebration.
“I invite all people of goodwill to take part, to care for our common home and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters,” he said in an address in the Vatican on May 24.
The Vatican released an English translation of the pope’s prayer:
Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all therein contained.
Open our minds and touch our hearts,
so that we can be part of Creation, your gift.
Be present to those in need in these difficult times,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Help us to show creative solidarity
as we confront the consequences of the global pandemic.
Make us courageous in embracing
the changes required to seek the common good.
Now more than ever, may we all feel interconnected and interdependent.
Enable us to succeed in listening and responding
to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.
May their current sufferings become the birth-pangs
of a more fraternal and sustainable world.
We pray through Christ our Lord,
under the loving gaze of Mary Help of Christians,
Mark Saludes contributed to this report.