by SUSANNE REHDER MONTGOMERIE
“Everything is interconnected” is the theme of the “Laudato Si’ Week” running from May 16-24, 2020. I think that we have experienced that both here in New Zealand and around the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We here in our country are interconnected, both in a positive way and a negative way! If we are not careful and do our part, then the virus can spread between us and cause severe illness and even death. The coronavirus crisis has also brought forth a positive interconnectedness in the form of kindness and care for each other, and especially the sick and those who do not have enough to eat and enough money to pay the bills. The state has extended “kindness” to businesses, employees, beneficiaries and homeless people in a very difficult time.
Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home” was published five years ago and “Laudato Si’ Week” celebrates that. Pope Francis makes it clear that we both need to “hear the cry of the earth and of the poor”. He revitalised Catholic social teachings, and emphasised care for God’s creation as equally important as caring for our poor and most vulnerable fellow humans. As Catholics, we know about God’s love and care, we know about the power of prayer and the need to let love be followed by actions. Most of us are aware that the environment needs our support and care now. We know that climate change can make our earth a very harsh place in which to live, and it also causes devastation in natural habitats and loss of both animal and plant species. It is a huge task for humanity to start being protectors of God’s creation, to stop natural habitats from disappearing, to mitigate climate change, to restore arid lands, to replant native species, to plant trees for our future forest to thrive. We, as humans, are interconnected both with each other and with nature. More and more people around the globe realise this. “Laudato Si’ Week” is meant to bring this “interconnectedness” into focus. It encourages us to take the next step in our knowledge, prayer life and our actions.
We need a “stubborn and determined optimism”, I think. I recently heard these words on a podcast by a person who was part of the UN negotiating team behind the creation of the “Paris Agreement” to prevent or mitigate global climate change. They were about to give up as it seemed in the “too hard” basket, when several people started to have this “stubborn and determined optimism”. It spread from individual to individual, and eventually an agreement far better than anticipated (at that time) was found! He (Tom Rivett-Carnac) likened it to prime minister Winston Churchill’s galvanising of the British nation back at the start of World War II. For our environment to thrive, for sustainability to be a reality, for climate change to be mitigated, we need a tremendous number of actions at all levels of society. We cannot give up and say, “my actions do not matter”, “my voice does not count for much”. We can individually make a difference, at home and at our workplaces, in our churches and organisations. Our businesses need to put in effort, as do our local councils, our government, our international trade organisations and UN organisations. Not only one level of action is needed – all levels are needed. We will slowly come out from under the Covid-19 crisis and start acting again in the public domain. Will we hear the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and take positive action?
The Environment and Sustainability Committee (of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland) have prepared materials for “Laudato Si’ Week” for parishes to publish in their electronic newsletters. These materials will also be available at our website: https://www.aucklandcatholic.org.nz/justice-peace/environment-sustainability-committee/ Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand will also have relevant materials on their blog: https://caritas.org.nz/newsroom/stories
- Susanne Rehder Montgomerie is convenor of the Environment and Sustainability Committee of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland.