How to live Pope Francis’ ‘Laudato Si’
It’s time to live Pope Francis’ words when it comes to caring for God’s creation.
Living up to God’s words is a much harder task than speaking them. Perhaps that’s why I was so strongly drawn to the words that Pope Francis delivered a year ago in “Laudato Si,” an encyclical focused on taking better care of God’s creation. Don’t get me wrong. Taking on the challenge of climate change, adjusting our habits, and limiting the risks associated with a warmer planet won’t be easy. But the fact that there are so many ways we can take action remains inspiring and a reason for hope.
Here in the Philippines, the impacts of climate change are not a matter of words; they are a matter of reality. We all share memories of rising seas, changing weather patterns, and what seems to be a horrifying yearly tradition of being slammed by a record-breaking typhoon. One could argue that pound for pound, no nation has been victimized by climate change like the Philippines, but in my opinion, this isn’t the time to be victims. It is the time to be vivacious.
In May, we saw the power of action when more than 8,000 Filipinos took to Batangas City to protest a proposed 600-megawatt coal power plant. Similar protests have taken place in Cebu. While we in the Philippines mainly feel the impacts of the climate crisis, if we increase our country’s number of coal plants from 17 to 29, as the Department of Energy is planning to do, not only will we fail to live up to our international commitments, we will also become part of the climate problem instead of just a casualty to it.
In Manila just a few weeks ago, the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help announced that it will be installing solar panels after its parishioners drew inspiration from “Laudato Si.” On June 12, Malate Church blessed 64 panels. Last summer, Our Lady of the Angels in Atimonan, Quezon, flipped a switch on a newly installed 5-kilowatt solar system that will supply the parish with nearly half of its daytime energy needs.
In my own diocese of San Carlos, our new college seminary (St. John Mary Vianney Seminary) will be using solar energy and integrating other green technology and “Laudato Si” principles. Our priest rectory in Sipaway island is also energized through solar panels. Last June 14, we launched the Eco-Parish Guide, which highlights the efforts of many parishes throughout the world who are intent on “living ‘Laudato Si.’”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If we as Catholics begin to live “Laudato Si,” our impacts could be massive. There are over a billion of us throughout the world, and more than 80 million of us in the Philippines. That’s 80 million ways to help cut fossil-fuel emissions; that’s 80 million ways to live “Laudato Si.”
Throughout his encyclical, Pope Francis reiterates the traditional teachings of the Christian faith regarding ecology. He affirms that creation possesses inherent goodness and dignity that does not depend on human utility. He reiterates that humans are both a part of creation and set apart by God who calls humanity to “cultivate and care for” the gift of creation (Genesis 2:15).
As we mark one year since Pope Francis delivered “Laudato Si,” let’s celebrate the occasion by working to live it. There are so many ways. Maybe it’s taking to the streets to stop the establishment of a new coal power plant. Maybe it’s urging your parish to go solar so we can all be less dependent on those coal plants. Or maybe it’s simply eating less meat, or turning off the air-conditioning when you leave your bedroom.
The actions may seem small, but together they can make a difference. Caring for our creation is everybody’s responsibility, and I wish that we can work to live Pope Francis’ word as much as spread it.
Gerardo Alimane Alminaza is the bishop of San Carlos.
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