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Year of Catholic Eco-Action launched in the UK

October 1, 2007:

Mass at Clifton, celebrating our relationship with nature and God

A year-long exploration by UK Catholics of our need to care for our environment was launched on Saturday evening (29 September) in Clifton Cathedral, Bristol.

The Bishop of Clifton, Right Reverend Declan Lang, the newly appointed Bishop for Environmental Justice in England and Wales, celebrated a special Mass while Australian Bishop Chris Toohey - Chairman of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Justice and Service, which includes the groundbreaking Catholic Earthcare Australia gave a moving homily, urging action, which is available in full as an MP3 from the home page of the Sound of Many Waters website.

He earlier gave an interview to the Catholic Communications Network CCN, of which highlights can be found below. ”Sound of Many Waters” is an important series of events over the next year as the Catholic Church in the UK explores the role of ecology in its teaching, as well as exploring its own role as a leader in environmental action.

It was inspired by Cathedral parishioner, BBC Natural History senior producer and ecological journalist Mary Colwell who brought her unique ‘The Pope and the Iceberg’ presentation to Clifton Cathedral two years ago, and has since spoken to dozens of audiences all around the country.

“It’s been quite a roller coaster ride through the two years since ‘The Pope and the Iceberg’” said Ms Colwell at the launch.

“Back then many people didn't see their faith as having a direct relevance to the problems the earth is facing. Now there is a much greater awareness throughout society and it is wonderful to see an expression of that in this year of events. We all have a long way to go, but the main message of the Catholic Church has always been, and will always be, hope. Not a sentimental or unrealistic hope but a hope grounded in the knowledge that if we approach this in a humble and spiritual way then we will see a way through.”

“The human spirit is the most amazing thing, it constantly amazes, astounds and delights, and there is no reason at all why that will be any different in the coming years. An alliance of spiritual wisdom and the insights of science are a dynamic combination that will tell us what we need to do to found a new civilisation.”

Bishop Declan spoke about justice within the Scriptures as the restoration of right relationships: “In many ways we have become disconnected, from the environment of which we are part. In the first place we need to regain a sense of wonder and appreciation about creation as gift of God. Unless we appreciate the earth, we will never properly care for it; or cherish it for future generations. We need to reconnect with our world to see it in a new way - to have eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that loves and mind that understands.”

Bishop Toohey toured the UK in the build-up to the Sound of Waters launch, meeting many high profile leaders including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He also led a meeting in the House of Commons.

Extracts from Bishop Toohey's interview on CCN:

On faith and the environment

“We have to be prayerful people first – otherwise this whole deal becomes sheer activism. From a faith perspective, we’ve got to marry up our prayer and our action – the two go together”.

On personal responsibility

“When [people] hear the science and a respectful treatment of their own dignity, the response is ‘I need to be careful about how I use energy myself, at my home and in my life’”.

On climate change and the developing world

“If everyone in the world lived like Australians, we’d need ten planets! How can we say to people in developing countries who have a legitimate right to a good standard of living and all the other things we say we want, how are we going to do that while preserving the planet – this is our biggest challenge.”

On safeguarding water sources

“There’s life where there’s water – water is crucial. How we use water in many respects will determine how peaceful a world we have.”

On electricity

“Everybody knows that generation of electricity is important for development. Not only in your country and mine, but in the developing countries too – they need electricity. How we go about making this stuff is the big ticket item.”

On Sound of Many Waters

“It’s an audacious plan… I don’t know anyone else who’s done this…The fact that it’s going over a year gives it momentum. It gives people a chance to make a positive stance to the natural world part of their own life… It could well be a bit of a beacon on the international scene.”

Sound of Many Waters is supported by a range of organisations including WWF, Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, CAFOD and the Apostleship of the Sea. It has backing on the national and international scene. Messages of support have been received from the Bishops’ Conferences of Australia, USA and Scotland.

The Sound of Many Waters website contains details of the events taking place throughout the coming 12 months, culminating in a celebration on the feast day of St Francis: October 4th, 2008.

The second event in the Sound of Living Waters is a launch of a year long ecological audit for Catholic schools around the country - held at St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Bristol on October 4th, with guest appearance by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Mary Colwell and Coast presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff. Link here for the press release or go to the Sound of Many Waters website.


Link to the Catholic Earthcare website.

Link to the Sound of Many Waters website.

Link here for a BBC news story about The Sound of Many Waters.

Link here for an edited version of: THE CALL OF CREATION: GOD'S INVITATION AND THE HUMAN RESPONSE which was first published in 2002 by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, adding its voice to the many calling for urgent action to protect our earthly home from further destruction.

Link here for news of a multi-faith walk which took place in July 2008 across Clifton Suspension Bridge with a Jewish Rabbi, a Christian Bishop and a Muslim Imam.

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UK Catholics: The Call to Creation
"It is not wrong to want to live better. What is wrong is a style of life... directed towards having rather than being." A Catholic response to the environmental crisis.
Sound of many waters brochure
From September 2007-October 2008 the Catholic Church in England and Wales is celebrating the importance of the environment in a series of events in and around Clifton Cathedral in Bristol.
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