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Pope Francis. CNS photo/Vatican Media

Season of Creation prompts calls for action

  • September 10, 2020

OTTAWA -- Religious and social justice groups are promising to make environmental justice initiatives the focus of a month-long celebration of creation following a plea by Pope Francis to better protect the environment, respect Indigenous communities around the globe and listen to the concerns of young people.

“This year should lead to long-term action plans to practise integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities, our health-care, business and agricultural institutions, and many others as well,” Pope Francis said in a message delivered Sept. 1 as part of World Day of Prayer for Creation and the start of the Season of Creation that continues through to St. Francis of Assisi Day on Oct. 4.

KAIROS, a Canadian faith-based organization that includes the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, launched its second annual “Climate Action Month” at the beginning of September that calls for “radically new ways of living with creation.”

Climate action month is held “to galvanize awareness and action after a series of alarming and urgent UN special reports on the climate crisis and impacts on vulnerable communities, including women and Indigenous peoples,” said D&P in a statement. “The pandemic has redefined our world with calls for a just recovery that prioritizes the welfare of essential workers and at-risk people in the transition to a carbon net zero economy by 2050.”

“Recovery from the pandemic offers an immense opportunity to build a more resilient and equitable society that upholds human rights and the integrity of our planet,” said Beth Lorimer, ecological justice co-ordinator for KAIROS Canada.

“Ambitious action is needed from our leaders to get us there and we all have a voice in making that message heard.”

Joe Gunn of the Oblat Centre, based in Ottawa’s Saint Paul University, said the campaign for climate justice has been a focal point of the Jesuit Oblat Centre this year. “This is very much a priority,” he said.

The message by Pope Francis is being taken to heart by groups such as Citizens For Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based religious social justice organization, which in an August 2020 brief to the House of Commons standing committee on finance pre-budget consultations said “the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened our collective focus.”

“Priorities have become clearer and there is a call for change. The climate emergency — the focus of the 2019 pre-budget consultation — has not gone away. Poverty and inequality have been aggravated. At the same time, long-standing systemic racism and social exclusion have also been brought to light,” according to the CPJ. “These are not new issues, but curiously, the crisis spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic may have created a fresh opportunity to take a deeper look at how we respond.”

The Pope acknowledged that faith communities are recognizing climate action needs to be taken.

“We rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We are particularly happy that the Season of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family.”

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