Letter to religious communities

“Responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor is at the centre of Christian discipleship.” This statement expresses our concern—two hundred and forty persons from eighty-two religious institutes, fifty-seven countries and five continents—as we gathered in Assisi from 12-16 May 2009. “Creation at the Heart of Mission” was jointly sponsored by SEDOS and the JPIC Commission of the USIG/USG where both religious and lay collaborators were led by theologians Séan McDonagh and Denis Edwards in considering ecology and our Christian life.

Séan McDonagh, SSC gave us an understanding of the origins of the universe and the effects of climate change. We are aware that God’s creative process is an evolutionary and spread over a period of 13,7 billion years. This work of God is now being threatened by human activity and greed. Fires, droughts, extinction of species, destruction of forests, extension of deserts, the pollution of our oceans, and the melting of polar glaciers—all of these phenomena are indicators of climate change. Ecology, economics and justice are intrinsically linked and the abuse of Earth is a cry for urgent action, lest future generations inherit a sterile Earth.

Fr. Denis Edwards took us back into scriptures to see how Jesus himself experienced nature and loved it, and saw it as a revelation of God. He encouraged us to make an ecological commitment in our following of Jesus. A second conference on Eucharist and Ecology in which he noted for us the rich texts that refer to creation in the Eucharistic prayers, called us to praise and thanksgiving for creation. And, as the Eucharist is a memorial of the Christ-event, so also God holds all that is created in divine memory, in such a way that even a sparrow that falls to the ground matters to God. The third presentation focused on HOPE and transformation (Romans 8:23). In terms reminiscent of Teilhard de Chardin, Edwards reminded us that our future involves a radical transformation of all matter in the Risen Christ. Edwards says that all created life—human and animal—will experience a deifying transformation, “The God of Resurrection life is a God who brings individual creatures in their own distinctiveness in some way into the eternal dynamic of the divine communion.”

We have been challenged to move from an “arrogant eye to a loving eye,” to embrace a kind of “ecological conversion” in our attitudes and practices with regard to Earth. We have been brought face to face with the reality of climate change, the exploitation of forests, minerals, the ruin of water sources and clean air, the unethical interests of transnational corporations and make farmers dependent upon those corporations for seeds. These realities affect all of us, and especially the most impoverished people—those least responsible for Earth’s degradation.

Inspired by this place—the Assisi of St. Francis—we feel the call to embrace an ecological commitment, and assume a lifestyle that reveals our inner sense of oneness with Earth and to the God who creates in Christ Jesus. We need to live a coherent lifestyle. We can only have a common future if we live now a shared austerity to ensure dignity for generations to come, that future generations may enjoy the beauty of this Earth, “the flower bed of our dwelling” (Dante).

We recognize the commitment of many religious to towards promoting the integrity of creation. During the seminar, some groups shared their experiences of working with alternative energy sources and promoting organic farming as well as creating ecological awareness in schools. We encourage religious congregations in their formation programmes, their liturgies, their own renewal programs, and in apostolic engagements with youth, for example, to embrace this call to love Earth and its creatures as God loves it, to integrate these insights into action in relation to Earth and all that live upon it.

Let us join our voices and efforts with those organizations and movements that struggle to defend the rights of the Planet and the rights of the poor and marginalized, those threatened by the theft and violent dispossession of natural resources and living habitats. We call ourselves to work with church groups and civil society organizations to lobby governments and international institutions to answer this most important need.
Recognizing our own ecological sins and complicity in the abuse of Earth, we ask forgiveness and we propose our actions as means of reconciliation and solidarity.

Seminar documents:

16 May 2009 - Assisi, Italia