Canadian religious leaders and interfaith coalitions banded together before the Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 United Nations climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, to urge Ottawa to take substantial steps toward a new international agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocols. Almost alone among Canada’s major church and faith bodies, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops refused to sign the “Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change.”

The Congregation of St. Joseph signed, along with many other Catholic religious orders and a broad swath of Canada’s Christian bodies. Major Muslim, Hindu and interfaith coalitions also signed onto the two-page statement.

Published in Canada

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Climate change-induced drought that has afflicted the Horn of Africa presents the opportunity for the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to work more closely with the government to address food shortages and development concerns, said an official of the country's bishops' conference.

Recalling when Ethiopian regimes in the 1970s and 1980s either did not have the capacity or the political will to face a series of famines, Father Hailegebriel Meleku, deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat, said the country is now better poised to address its humanitarian problems, in part because church bodies have been mobilized during recent crises.

Published in International

Vibrant public discourse is highly desirable, but it demands thoughtful application.

During climate negotiations at December’s UN conference in Durban, the discourse was sour. On Day 1, disgruntled environmental activists presented Canada with a “Colossal Fossil” award after Environment Minister Peter Kent declared “Kyoto is the past.” Following media reports that the Canadian government planned to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, Kent clarified on Dec. 5 that Canada was not actually withdrawing but would simply not agree to a second commitment period.

That was followed by a torrent of exaggerated invective launched in Canadian media in response to a full-page ad published in the Globe and Mail. The ad, signed by South African dignitaries, including the Nobel Peace laureate,  Anglican Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, praised Canada for its role to end apartheid in South Africa but also questioned Canada’s current commitment to prevention of climate change, which was called “a life- and-death issue” for Africans. The ad went on to criticize the sacred cow of Canadian energy policy: the Athabasca oil sands.

Published in Guest Columns

VATICAN CITY - Climate change is a faith issue because it deals with God's creation and with poverty, said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

The cardinal, president of Caritas Internationalis, was in Durban, South Africa, for the U.N.-sponsored international conference on climate change Nov. 28-Dec. 9; he discussed the conference Dec. 13 with journalists at the Vatican.

Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 national Catholic charities, provides emergency relief and development aid around the globe. But it also teaches Catholics about the church's social doctrines, advocating and educating people about issues of justice and peace, he said.

Published in International

DURBAN, South Africa - Excessive focus on money is destroying the environment and dehumanizing people, said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis.

Religious communities have a duty to call attention to the importance of the human person, who is “at the centre of creation,” he said while international leaders were debating the extension of legal limits on the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

Officials from nearly 200 countries were in Durban Nov. 28-Dec. 9 for United Nations-sponsored climate change talks.

Published in International