The Catholic Church in the Philippines launched on Wednesday, March 3, a program that aims to aggressively counter climate emergency in the country.
The virtual launching was led by Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace.
“Indeed, we have come a long way since we introduced Laudato si’ in the Philippines,” said the prelate.
The “2021 National Laudato si’ Program,” which is being initiated by an “inter-commission task group” of the bishops’ conference, presents plans that require a “whole-of-nation” approach in environmental protection.
“As a Church, together with our partners, we are more determined today than ever to work collectively to protect and uphold the rights of nature,” said the bishop.
Columban priest John Leydon, head of the Global Catholic Climate Movement in the country, said it would seem that it is the first time that a bishops’ conference has organized itself to systematically address the changes presented by Laudato Si.
“But this is not the first time that the [Philippines bishops have] been first,” said the priest.
In 1988, the Philippine bishops’ conference came up with a pastoral letter on ecology titled “What is happening to our beautiful land?”
Father Leydon said that over the years the pastoral letter provided the Church with a vision and framework that enable a strong response at the local level to the “ravages of logging, mining, construction of coal fired power plants, among others.”
Bishop Bagaforo, who is also national director of Caritas Philippines, appealed to the public to support the program by becoming “responsible stewards of creation.”
“Our efforts will remain insufficient, wanting, and immaterial, if you will not join this global cause,” he said.
The prelate said the program will engage all sectors of society “to overcome challenges and beat dangerous curves” brought about by the climate crisis.
“We are more determined today than ever to work collectively to protect [the environment] and uphold the rights of nature,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
He said the initiative will also celebrate “the triumphs of our ecology, and our advocacies against transgressions, abuse, and misuse.”
Father Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said the program also aims to create a “centralized information hub” that will help Church institutions and its partners “to easily and immediately access records, researches, and essential information” that will advance environmental actions.
The national program will also focus on specific advocacies, such as the legislation of the Rights of Nature Bill, the dirty energy divestment campaign, food security programs, and campaigns for indigenous peoples rights, among others.
Father Labiao said dioceses across the country are set to organize and establish “ecology desks” that will gather and act on grievances against “destructive developmental projects.”
He said the Church needs to strengthen its “engagement and dialogue” with government institutions and private businesses to address ecological issues, especially on various projects.
The “2021 National Laudato si’ Program” is part of the Philippine Catholic Church’s response to the call of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the “Care for Our Common Home.” – with a report from Mark Saludes