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Social action amid the coronavirus threat

THE Church continues her mission as a servant community in a situation where the majority suffer due to the effects of the pandemic and the creeping ecological crisis.

How is this to be carried out concretely depends on the local situation where the Church is situated.

The See-Judge-Act method is recommended. Concrete action should flow from analysis of the situation (the specific problems and issues that the local Church/community is facing), and the moral judgment.

The priority continues to be the promotion of integral development — working for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

In the face of economic recession or depression, each local Church should address the problem of increasing poverty, unemployment and lack of food security which can lead to hunger and even starvation. Many will be driven to indebtedness.

Since government efforts to address these problems may not be enough, the Church in collaboration with civil society organizations has to promote sustainable development and initiate or support poverty-alleviation programs.

Credit unions/cooperatives as well as micro-finance programs should be introduced or promoted to avoid loan-sharks.

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During the pandemic “Kindness Centers” with feeding programs and food banks have proliferated in many parishes. This should be multiplied and expanded. This is difficult to sustain in most parishes with dwindling incomes and resources. Parishioners should be encouraged to share their time, talent and treasure.

Besides giving food, what is more important is to promote local food production such as gardening and communal farms. Families and communities should be taught to engage in natural/organic farming or sustainable agriculture and link up with consumers through social media and e-commerce, which bypass middle-men.

Parishes and Basic Ecclesial Communities within dioceses with livelihood projects and income-generating programs can engage in alternative trade, organizing networks of production and marketing.

With the radical restructuring of the world economic order that is becoming de-globalized, a more localized and self-sufficient economic system is emerging.

Church aid workers distribute relief goods to residents affected by the onslaught of typhoon Vongfong in the Philippines on May 14. (Photo courtesy of Caritas Philippines)

This is the effect of the decentralization and localization of supply chains in the aftermath of the pandemic crisis as well as the acceleration of the 4th industrial revolution with the proliferation of digital-based manufacturing, 3-D printing, robotics, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, etc.

The trend is towards local manufacturing and production for domestic consumption rather than for exports. New skills and competencies will be required with new enterprises and jobs generated.

The social action program of the Church should be geared towards promoting and supporting the growth of cooperatives and of medium/small scale/cottage industries that are community-based or at the grassroots (parish and BEC levels).

It should also focus on skills training, capability building and local capitalization. It should address the problem of unemployment and labor displacement due to the economic crisis as well as disruptive technologies brought about by the 4th industrial revolution.

A program for enterprise building and job-placement can be initiated. There are parishes with pious wealthy members who are engaged in business or industries that can be tapped.

The principles and best practices of the Economy of Communion (initiated by the Focolare movement) can be adopted and further developed.

It should be an economy motivated not primarily by profit but by sharing with the needy and promoting a culture of giving while ensuring business to grow in a free market economy.

It should be an economy based on solidarity and the principle of stewardship, living in practice the ecclesiology of communion and in particular the communion of goods where the members are of one heart and mind and no one in need (cf. Acts 4:32-35).

It should emphasize sustainability and respect for the environment. This requires the advice and technical assistance of grassroots-oriented technocrats and entrepreneurs as well schools of business and management in Catholic Universities.

We should continue to promote integral ecology according to the spirit of Laudato Si.

As a response to ecological crisis, emphasis should be given to the reduction of carbon foot-prints. This involves participation in the Greening movement, tree-planting, micro-gardening (family-community levels), adoption and promotion of alternative sources of energy (solar, wind), waste-management, biking, walking, etc.

Farther Rex Ramos of St. Vincent Ferrer parish in Camarines Sur shows his harvest from his backyard farm. The priest started cultivating the vegetable garden to address the needs of parishioners during the pandemic. (Photo supplied)

We should promote a healthy and simple lifestyle that, besides reducing carbon footprints, can strengthen the immune system against diseases and viruses (plant-based diet, caloric restrictions, intermittent fasting).

While acting locally we need to link-up with each other at various levels — national, regional, global.

The Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Development in collaboration with the Global Catholic Climate Movement as well as the Sowing Hope for the Planet Campaign are promoting a roll out plan for the years to come as a concrete response to Laudato Si.

To carry out our mission of promoting justice, peace and integrity of creation we need to make full use of digital technology and social media.

This is a means for letting us see what is happening all around us — the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, the effects of the pandemic and the ecological crisis, the injustices and inequality, the violence.

This allows us to analyze, reflect and make judgment on what is happening from the perspective of the Christian faith and the Church’s moral and social teaching.

This enables us to share our stories – of what we are doing and should be doing – and support each other and express solidarity as we act together to transform and heal the world.

Final Thoughts

Through the centuries, the Church has found herself facing numerous crisis worst than we have now. This is not the time to be afraid and to panic. Our Lord Jesus Christ has promised us that He is always with us and will not abandon us.

The Spirit-filled Christian Community has survived and thrived even in the worst situation and continued to fulfill her mission.

What matters most is to believe and trust in the Triune God, to be filled with hope and give hope to others, and to be filled with love and express this concretely to others as we strive to heal this world.

Father Amado Picardal is a Filipino Redemptorist priest who holds a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He has lived a life of solitude as a hermit after an active life as missionary, professor, promoter of Basic Ecclesial Communities, and peace and human rights advocate. He is currently executive co-secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Rome.

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