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Bishops attend Mass at the Sta. Maria Goretti Parish Church during their biannual plenary assembly in Manila July 7. CBCPNEWS

Catholic Bishops in Philippines Urge Action on Climate Change

‘Our preferential option for the poor pushes us to prioritize the most affected ‘poorest of the poor’ who cry to God for justice.’

Catholic bishops are ringing alarm bells about the future of the country’s environment in a major pastoral letter condemning “the continuing destruction of our common home”.

The statement was released July 16, 2019, by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, calling for “ecological conversion” amid “climate emergency”.

The 9-page document is divided into eight sections, with the first half offering a reflection on the state of the environment, followed by concrete ecological actions.

Following Laudato Si’, the bishops stressed that the cry of the earth is equally urgent as the cry of the poor for social justice.

“Our preferential option for the poor pushes us to prioritize the most affected ‘poorest of the poor’ who cry to God for justice. It is our moral obligation to respond to their suffering,” the CBCP said.

“Given the high rate of poverty in the Philippines, the need to manage the environment is paramount. Poverty and environmental degradation mutually reinforce each other,” it said.

Pope Francis, in his 40,000-word encyclical Laudato Si’, firmly pronounced that climate change is a threat to the world’s poor.

The letter outlines the issues facing the country, among them the irresponsible mining, the building of dams, and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy, such as coal.

Several studies have shown that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

“We must activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet,” the bishops said.

The document is the eighth CBCP pastoral letter on ecology since its “What Is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” released in 1988, the world’s first.

It was released after their recent plenary assembly in Manila as a way of operationalizing Laudato Si in the Philippines.

The Vatican has earlier asked Philippine church leaders about what they have done in response to the challenge set by the pope’s encyclical.

In the new statement, the bishops agreed not to allow the financial resources of Catholic institutions to be invested in favor of coal-fired power plants and mining companies.

“Divestment from such investment portfolios must be encouraged,” they stressed.

The CBCP ecological actions clearly instruct every Catholic to live the teachings of the Scriptures articulated by Laudato Sí.

The bishops also announced the creation of an “ecology desk” in all diocesan social action centers that would make ecology their special concern.

The bishops affirmed that they are one with the pope in pursuing a common agenda to protect “our fragile ecosystem from the threat of the continuing ecological crisis”.

“We have the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home. This is our Christian duty and responsibility,” they said.

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