Signs at the Climate Strike in Nathan Phillips Square asked for immediate action. Photo by Michael Swan

Movement pushes to turn talk into action

  • July 25, 2019

The timing could hardly be better for the Canadian arm of the Global Catholic Climate Movement when it officially launches in September.

Canada will be right in the middle of an election campaign where climate change and what our political leaders are doing to combat it could swing the balance of power on Parliament Hill.

“The time is right for this to happen now,” said Agnes Richard, Canada co-ordinator for the worldwide movement which has been in the works since January. 

The Global Catholic Climate Movement is a coalition of more than 650 Catholic organizations that are focused on turning Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ into action for climate justice. Following up on Francis’ call to care for creation, GCCM Canada will offer support for paths of dialogue and action to respond to what many are recognizing as a crisis facing our world.

“We’re having the right conversation at the right time, and it’s working,” said Richard.

GCCM Canada will do its part by bringing conversations forward from a Catholic perspective and has been partnering with organizations like Development and Peace in conversations with Church leaders in making Laudato Si’ a priority in parishes. 

And with a federal election on the plate for October, there’s a great opportunity to get that voice out.

“If the Catholic laity can bring these concerns to every candidate, and every meeting and town hall. … I think that’s the kind of connection that GCCM Canada hopes to have,” said Richard, whose background includes serving on Citizens Climate Action Plan in Hamilton, Ont., in 2015 and last year receiving the city’s environmentalist of the year award. 

The organization believes it has a wonderful document in Laudato Si’ to be preaching from, a champion for the cause in Pope Francis and the mindset of the people in understanding that something needs to be done for the care of our common home.

“I see a turning point happening this year around awareness of climate emergency,” she said. “We’re changing the language and by changing the language we are pointing to the urgency of this.”

Richard sees municipalities and even more recently the federal government coming on board in declaring the world is facing a climate emergency. 

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and regional bishops’ conferences have sounded the environmental alarm as well, but Richard says a lay-led movement can be just the grassroots push to unite all the disparate voices.

“If we all start talking with a common voice then the clarity of the message will make it easier for politicians to act on,” said Richard.

John Dorner is co-ordinator of creation care ministry with the Archdiocese of Ottawa and on the GCCM national advisory board. A common voice is all good, he said, but the challenge is to get people to work this voice into action.

“It’s a question of how do we move forward (and make) our habits of daily life consistent with care for creation,” said Dorner.

GCCM is looking to foster connections between the movement, Catholic organizations, Indigenous people and defenders of creation through an online forum. 

“The goal is to build solidarity among our people,” said Dorner. “Not just locally, but also globally. That we recognize our behaviour, our ways of living, have an impact on others.”

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