A “Laudato si’ Living Chapel,” the first in Asia after Rome and Venice in Europe, was inaugurated in the central Philippines on November 7 on the occasion of the second foundation anniversary of the group Living Laudato Si’ (LSS) Philippines.
The “open-air chapel” was built by the faithful of Santo Niño parish on Sibuyan island under the ecclesiastical territory of the Diocese of Romblon.
“With the existence of the Living Chapel, we will work together with [Basic Ecclesial Communities] and ecology ministers in the parish to promote integral ecological spirituality in every family leading to concrete actions,” said Rodne Galicha, LLS executive director.
Situated on a pilgrimage hill called “Tagudtod sang Pangamuyo,” or “Hill of Prayer,” with a panoramic view of rice paddies and Mount Guiting-guiting Natural Park at the background, the sacred space “is an answered prayer.”
“I have been praying that if the time would come that I will be called to join the Creator, the Hill of Prayer will be taken care of by the faithful for the protection of our environment,” said Dr. Bernardo Rivas, who provided the lot.
At the center of the open-air chapel is a tree called “tigà,” the Philippine ironwood that is already a threatened species flourishing in biodiversity hotspot Sibuyan Island.
Galicha said the tree symbolizes the biblical “Tree of Life” and the “Burning Bush,” and around it are fourteen pillars made of seven tightly tied bamboos to represent the seven Laudato si Goals and the multi-year Laudato si’ Action Platform.
“This initiative will promote Laudato si’ goals, the multi-year Laudato si’ Action Platform and the eco-actions enumerated in the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ pastoral letter on ecology,” said parish priest Francis Fornal.
The CBCP pastoral letter on ecology, “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency,” highlights the Philippine Church’s response to the call of Pope Francis in “pursuing common agenda to protect our fragile ecosystem from the threat of the continuing ecological crisis.”
In a video message, Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB, coordinator of sector on “Ecology and Creation” of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, recalled that LLS was launched two years ago at the Manila Cathedral.
“From indoors, you are now going outdoors. Pope Francis constantly invites us that we need to become a Church that goes out towards the poor; that goes out to the natural world that is crying out, that goes out into the peripheries,” said the priest.