By Lisa Zengarini
Helping Scottish dioceses and parishes assess their carbon footprint – that is, the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by human activities – and to discern how to work towards carbon neutrality.
That is the aim a new special environmental protection department, which the Catholic Bishops of Scotland plan to set up.
The establishment of the “Care of Creation Office”, which will be headed by Fr Gerard H Maguiness, the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference (BCOS), was announced this week ahead of the COP26, the 26th UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in November in Glasgow.
According to the BCOS, the idea was inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato si’, which reminds all Catholics of their responsibilities towards one another and the world we live.
One human family sharing a common home
Caring for creation is also the theme of a Pastoral Letter which the Bishops will distribute on Pentecost Sunday, 23 May, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Pope’s document on the care of our common home.
The letter draws attention to the Christian message, that “we are all part of one human family” and that “we share a common home, [which] means that our earth’s resources must be shared and used for the benefit of all.”
It recalls that “God’s creation is a great gift to all humanity” and its resources are to preserved and “passed on to future generations”.
However, although “we have been entrusted by God with the care of the earth“, we have “not just used the earth we have abused it”, bringing it to “a crisis point”, particularly due to CO2 emissions, Scottish bishops write.
Need for a radical “change of life”
Hence the need for “urgent and deep rooted action”, which implies a radical “change of life”. In fact, the environmental crisis “is not just an issue that can be left to governments to deal with”, but “raises questions about how we live, how we work, how we holiday, how we travel, how the goods we purchase are manufactured and transported to us”, the Bishops’ letter points out.
Environmental and social justice
The Bishops also draw attention on the close connection between the protection of the environment and social justice.
”It is not only that we must stop polluting the atmosphere, we need to recognise the right of all humanity to the world’s resources,” they say.
They also recall that the Church too needs to act in this regard and that the dioceses of Scotland are in the process of divesting from fossil fuel investments, while the Bishops’ Conference is aiming for carbon neutrality for its agencies, as are the dioceses “in as sustainable and timely a way as possible”.
Acting with a sense of urgency
According to the Bishops, all these efforts are a start, “but much more is required if we are to undo the harm caused by generations of neglect and abuse.”
Calling to mind that scientists have confirmed that window for effective change is limited, they reiterate their urgent call for action.
“All of us must work with a sense of urgency to discern what needs to be done and to make the changes required,” the letter concludes.