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Far reaching Papal Encyclical on the Environment published today

June 18, 2015:

Today, something very extraordinary happened in the journey to link religions with conservation and conservation with religions.

The Pope issued an encyclical to urge Catholics - who make up one sixth of the world's population, approximately 1.2 billion people - to make real changes in their lifestyles and energy consumption in order to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem”.

In 1986 at the groundbreaking WWF Assisi Event on religions and conservation, hosted by HRH Prince Philip and the team that later became ARC, the Catholic Church issued its earliest and clearest statement about concern for the natural world. (link here)

"Even at that early stage, the linking of environment with issues of poverty and justice was one of the hallmarks in the Catholic statement which at that time led to considerable surprise among the environmental community who on the whole had not made that link," said ARC's secretary-general Martin Palmer, who helped Prince Philip design the 1986 Assisi event.

"This link between environment, poverty and justice is a major feature of the June 2015 Papal Encyclical and nearly 30 years on, the environment world is more prepared to hear this message."

For the first time in an encyclical, the head of the Catholic Church both warned that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”, and also empowered everyone – child, young person, man and woman, rich and poor – to protect this fragile planet.

Pope Francis, who named himself after the Saint who saw us and all creatures as equal members, in God's eyes, of the family of God, gives a powerful lead in the quest for all sectors of society to address the pressing issues of climate change and other pressing environmental issues, in the context of respecting all life.

In his first homily as pontiff, in March 2013, Pope Francis I issued an inspiring call to global leaders and the people of the world to protect "all creation, the beauty of the created world". Martin talked on BBC Radio 4, Beyond Belief, this Monday, about the encyclical, its genesis and its potential impact.

There are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics according to Vatican figures.

There are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics according to Vatican figures. More than 40% of the world's Catholics live in Latin America - but Africa has seen the biggest growth in Catholic congregations in recent years.

Some of the many Eco-Catholic groups formed in the past 30 years

The Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) is the platform for all young Catholics in Africa, promoting responsible stewardship of the environment. While Catholic Social Teaching on the environment may seem like a recent concern, its roots can be traced as far back to the Second Vatican Council, and has grown consistently, formally and informally over the years.


Useful Links

ARC news about Why Do I Care? Summit of Conscience Sommet des Consciences about the Climate, Paris, July 2015 Why Do I Care? Sommet des Consciences, Paris, July 2015

Benedictine Handbook on protecting the environment

Twitter hashtag #WhyICare and follow
Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA)

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