Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, talks to the media at the end of the bishops' plenary session in Manila July 13. CNS photo/Simone Orendain

Philippine archbishop: Protecting environment benefits poorest nations

By  Simone Orendain, Catholic News Service
  • July 20, 2015

MANILA, Philippines - The president of the Philippine bishops' conference called climate change a matter of social justice and said that caring for Earth should not just be a goal to benefit this generation but also future generations.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan cited "Laudato Si,'" Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the climate change, as a call for "Catholics and Christians to be passionate about the environment."

In a statement sent to Catholic News Service and later posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines website, Archbishop Villegas said the Pope also was anticipating the U.N. climate talks set for Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Paris in promulgating the encyclical.

He said "all persons of goodwill" must "attend to the needs of the impoverished and struggling nations" by being concerned about the issues to be raised at the U.N. summit.

Doing this "is our way of attending to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters; it is how, today, we must wash each others' feet," he said.

World leaders are expected to discuss ways to curb global warming in an attempt to develop a legally binding consensus on fighting the effects of climate change at the meeting.

Rising earth temperatures have been blamed for some of the most destructive storms of recent years. Many scientists, including meteorologists, have said climate change caused powerful Typhoon Haiyan, which blasted through some of the poorest parts of the central Philippines in late 2013.

The storm has given rise to a sense of urgency among the bishops to step up efforts to address climate change. The issue commanded prominent attention during the bishops' biannual plenary session July 6-13.

"It is a Christian obligation to be concerned with ecology and with climate change as a direct consequence of the moral concept of stewardship and a concomitant of Christian charity," Archbishop Villegas said.

The statement added that the bishops would be planning symposia and other activities that would highlight some of the issues to be discussed in Paris summit "as desired by Pope Francis."

It said also that the bishops would encourage a closer look at practices that have been scientifically proven to harm the environment and address concerns in local Philippine communities over mining, incineration and landfills.

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