Church groups nationwide are stepping up prayers in the lead up to the international negotiations on climate change in Paris. CNS photo

Churches gearing up for Paris climate conference

  • November 6, 2015

Canadian church organizations and leaders are putting the power of prayer to the test leading up to the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 international negotiations on climate change in Paris.

Trending on Twitter under #Pray4cop21, Catholics and others worldwide are organizing vigils, novenas, pilgrimages and Bible study sessions all focused on saving the natural environment and persuading world leaders to adopt binding targets to keep the rise in average global temperatures under two degrees.

Even the bishops are joining in. Bishops conferences from around the world, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined together in Rome at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family to sign a global plea for “courageous and imaginative political leadership.” The bishops also demand world leaders come up with a legal framework that will “clearly establish boundaries and ensure the protection of the ecosystem.”

The bishops are backed up by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. The organization’s online petition to world leaders says, “Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people among us. Inspired by Pope Francis and the Laudato Si’ encyclical, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous 1.5°C threshold, and to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts.”

The 215,000 signatures and counting include the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, one of the partners in the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Nationally Development and Peace is participating in a Nov. 29 march in Ottawa called 100% Possible. While thousands are expected on Parliament Hill the day before the Paris meetings start, that’s not all Development and Peace is doing. A postcard campaign will deliver hundreds of thousands of cards to the Prime Minister’s Office before Canada’s official delegation leaves for Paris. Catholic parishes and schools have until Nov. 9 to get their postcards signed and forwarded to Development and Peace offices.

On the local level, Development and Peace is organizing seminars and study sessions both for teachers and students. Toronto area Catholic teachers are gathering Nov. 5 at St. Bonaventure’s parish hall to hear University of St. Michael’s College theologian Dennis O’Hara speak about the link between faith and care for creation. The Development and Peace “Create a Climate of Change Campaign” then moves on to Toronto’s high school students with a student day also at St. Bonaventure’s Nov. 12.

The Toronto campaign culminates in a candlelight vigil on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, in front of the Ontario Legislature.

“At the vigil we will pray for the Earth and that the leaders hear our voice as they gather in Paris,” said Development and Peace’s Luke Stocking.

It isn’t just Toronto that’s getting ready for Paris. Vigils are planned or have already happened in cities from Halifax to 100 Mile House in British Columbia. The cowboy Catholics of 100 Mile House prayed and signed Development and Peace action cards at St. Jude’s Church on Oct. 25.

Citizens for Public Justice is promoting an ecumenical effort to foster prayers for the environment, backed by Saskatoon’s Bishop Don Bolen. Bolen contributed a sample sermon for the first Sunday of Advent that talks about “Justice in the here and now.”

“We can live with confidence that God is ultimately in charge of history, that God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. But we are also called to put our lives at the service of God’s great dream for humanity by being people who seek justice and show mercy,” Bolen writes.

Ultimately, faithful people have to “show our love for the Earth Jesus came to redeem,” Bolen writes.

Canada’s ecumenical coalition for social justice will be sending people to the 100% Possible march in Ottawa on Nov. 29. KAIROS supporters have also been participating in #fastfortheclimate, going without food one day a month to demonstrate support for action on climate change.

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