Friday December 4th marked the 29th Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture, titled Care for Creation: How to protect and sustain our common home. The topic of our common home and how to sustain saw a highly “informed, inspired and suitably stimulated” discussion between CAFOD Director, Chris Bain, Dr. Anna Rowlands, CAFOD volunteers and Cardinal Peter Turkson. Our new media volunteer Ellen Wright from the Westminster Diocese reflects on the lecture:
Despite the howling wind outside, the Pope Paul VI 2015 Memorial Lecture continued on. Having never been to a CAFOD lecture, the experience was both inspiring and extraordinary, demonstrating the embodiment of CAFOD; combining the beauty of religion with the troubles and issues of the world.
The lecture opened with a reflection on CAFOD’s achievements and an outline to the strategic plan for the future, from CAFOD Director Chris Bain. CAFOD has thanks to the generosity of the Catholic community successfully raised over £56 million for international and local work. This deserves a massive congratulations to all those that have helped CAFOD in their journey to eradicate poverty and suffering in developing countries.
Coinciding with the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, “COP21” in Paris, the highlight of the lecture has to be the honorary speaker Cardinal Peter Turkson. His inspirational take on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Laudato Si” was truly challenging yet motivational. Climate change is a primary and escalating problem that the modern world is facing. The encyclical provides the possibility to a door to a sustainable future, calling us to question the way in which humanity is closing the door on itself if nothing is achieved by the meetings in Paris.
Through the imagery of doors Cardinal Turkson explained the way in which we can use prayer and dialogue to bring about transformative results. The use of the door imagery is continued in regards to the season of advent, allowing for the door to the liturgical year to be opened to the birth of Jesus Christ. Within the encyclical Cardinal Turkson identifies the 5 goals, which the Cardinal defined as doors to the future of the social and natural world.
Door 1: To recognise that the climate change crisis affects everyone and everything. A prime example of this links back to 2010, when the volcanic ash of Eyjafjallajökull caused complete chaos to the entire world. Showing that one event had serious repercussions not only to humanity but to the environment. As Cardinal Turkson states it’s the “stake of human life on earth”, informing us that everyone must act together in order to make the difference that is needed.
Door 2: Everyone must act. This arguably is the overriding message of Laudato Si, that a legally binding commitment is needed on a global scale not just as individual. What is notable is 46 years ago humanity was approaching a “catastrophe” according to Pope Paul VI, and yet all these years later still humanity is no closer to saving itself “we are on the verge of suicide” states Pope Francis. For many although Pope Francis’ words are drastic, they are necessary if we are to challenge the negative attitudes, encouraging a positive attitude whereby humanity moves to tackle the problem.
Door 3: Everything is connected. There are connections between all of creation, just as God the Creator had intended it. The message of this door reflects Isaiah and our own spiritual struggles, and to be able to overcome these struggles a sense of dialogue is necessary for all to reverse the degradation of the world. How we treat the earth, reflects how we treat humanity.
Door 4: To be truthful. Cardinal Turkson calls for us to stop pretending that progress can be measured by economics, that “masking problems” helps no one. We need to go beyond our faith in order to challenge public attitudes. Although this is not designed to aggressive, the challenge to this attitude should be in a dialogue, between those with the negative attitude and those that are no longer “hiding the facts” of climate change affecting our world and world poverty.
Door 5: Encouragement. As with all global issues, there is room for everyone’s point of view. For this issues to be rectified there must be a dialogue. Pope Francis expands upon the selfishness of humanity through short term thinking, his idea would be a sincere and open dialogue, whereby a everyone comes together to form a genuine conversation – this is primary hope for COP21.
In addition to these 5 goals or doors as Cardinal Turkson imagined it is education. He encourages us as Catholics and as CAFOD volunteers to be encouraged to open the door again and again. The issue of climate change is not a short term problem that can be fixed by open the door only once, but to door it again and again.
The 6th door is Prayer and Pray. This is the epitome of Laudato Si, which in itself is a prayer, allowing for a deeper dialogue with the Creator. Laudato Si aims not to condemn development but to adopt a bigger and high vision, balancing humanity with humility.
Cardinal Turkson asks us to join the poor in prayer and meditation by quoting Matthew 6:10 “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Therefore I will leave this final question: You’re your vision of heaven involve a toxic waste dump or can you help CAFOD tackle climate change and poverty?