By Jamie O’Brien
The effects of climate change and the resolve to find a solution has last week prompted Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe to join other local and national religious leaders to sign the Catholic Climate Petition.
The petition was presented to the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, and Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot, on 28 November at the ‘Faith in Climate Justice’ (Les Religions Pour le Climat) event in Paris.
Bearing the signatures of 850,000 Catholics from 137 countries, the petition urged world leaders to resolve to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C, while also asking for the provision of aid for the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts.
In the weeks leading up to the Faith in Climate Justice convention in Paris, Pope Francis led the charge of calling for change, inviting people around the world to participate a March.
The People’s Climate March was supported by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) which is led in Australia by Catholic Earthcare Australia and held in various cities across the globe. In Perth, the March took place starting at Wellington Square on Sunday, 29 November.
Local reports have it that some 8,000 people took part in the event locally, compared with 150,000 nationally and 800,000 internationally.
Director of the Justice, Ecology and Development Office for the Archdiocese of Perth, Carol Mitchell, echoed the statement released by GCCM earlier on in the week.
“This is all about working together to better understand what is happening around us, while also finding and implementing lasting solutions that will bring about change for the benefit of all creation,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“Pope Francis has said that the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites – so it is up to us to start working on solutions together now,” Mrs Mitchell said.
The Pope also said the task at hand is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organise.
“It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change,” the Pope said.
“Let us exercise our ‘global ecological citizenship’ to usher in this process of transformation for justice, harmony, and peace.”
The call for change was also emphasised by Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, Jacqui Remond, and Caritas Australia Chief Executive Officer, Paul O’Callaghan, who met with Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trading, the Hon Julie Bishop.
Ms Remond and Mr O’Callaghan presented Minister Bishop with the Australian signatures collected for the global Catholic Climate petition, conveying the sentiments of the Australian Catholic Community.
Ms Remond also presented photos of Australian Bishops who signed the GCCM petition as recently as earlier the same day.
Ms Remond said the meeting was engaging and included discussion about Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, as well as the work currently being undertaken by faith communities who have made declarations about climate change.
Laudato Si’ – Caring for Our Common Home was released by Pope Francis in September this year, and calls on people to seek new ways to understand the economy, condemn the throwaway culture and dependence on technology and to reassess the dignity of humanity and the integrity of creation in finding solutions to the ecological crisis.
Ms Mitchell went on to explain that, in the lead-up to the events last week, the GCCM were also compelled to call for a month of climate action.
In a statement released supporting climate action, the organisations said the Month of Climate Action would work like a virtual pilgrimage, paralleling the fasts and People’s Pilgrimages that have been occurring around the world with those advocating for climate action and justice.
Participants began the month’s work of action on 1 November – the feast of All Saints, remembering St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Ecology, and all saints who have worked for justice and systemic change.
Global Co-ordinator of GCCM, Tomas Insua, said the Catholic faith is the basis for the work protecting all peoples and all life.
“We believe, as Pope Francis has said, that climate change is a moral issue, and we want to stress our interconnectedness with all people, all of Creation, all of God’s earthly blessings. We hope that hundreds of thousands of Catholics will join us for this historic Month of Climate Action,” Mr Insua said.