Image: Rolling out Laudato Sí – On Care for our Common Home – in the Irish Church


To get our new year of environmental campaiging underway, Lorna Gold of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference writes this week's blog and reflects on the decision of the Irish church to divest from fosil fuels. 

Following the publication of Laudato Sí in 2015, in Ireland there was a strong sense that we had to do something significant to ensure that this letter did not remain mere words on paper.

However, the task ahead seemed very daunting. In an over-stretched church, dwindling in numbers, Laudato Sí risked being seen as an irrelevance to the vast majority of Catholics.

However, those involved in justice, peace and creation care felt a major step was required. Meeting shortly after the launch of Laudato Sí, we agreed that a working group on the encyclical under the auspices of the Bishops’ Conference would be very helpful. The bishops agreed and the group was established. It includes scholars and experts in the areas of theology, climatology, international development, pastoral work and education.

Almost all of the members were lay people who gave their time voluntarily.
Over the past two years the group has gone from strength to strength, awakening the call to action in Laudato Sí across the church. A key approach has been to provide materials for reflection and in-service trainings to clergy and staff of the Church – starting with the bishops, who all received a one-day training in February 2018. This has been critical in plugging the gap that exists in theological formation – a big obstacle to moving Laudato Sí forward. With this foundation set, many other very significant initiatives followed in individual departments, ranging from incorporation in the World Meeting of Families to the adoption of the annual Season of Creation across the whole church.

One decision that stands out is the bishops’ conference commitment to divest their financial resources from fossil fuels. Having understood the message of Laudato Sí and its call to “shift away from fossil fuels without delay” (#165), the Laudato Sí group, supported by the expertise of Trócaire which has led a national divestment campaign, proposed to the Finance and General Purposes Council that the bishops make a statement on fossil fuels. An expert presentation was made by Trócaire to the Finance Committee in May 2018 and a motion proposed that resources should be removed from fossil fuels. The motion was passed without objection and received the backing of the full Bishops’ Conference. The announcement was made in Christchurch Cathedral on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland.

The bishops’ decision to divest as part of their implementation of Laudato Sí is significant. In the words of Bishop William Crean, Chairman of Trócaire: “Our announcement, whilst modest in terms of financial resources, is more than just symbolic.  It is about joining the growing social movement, led by young people across the world, calling for the realignment of our financial policies to safeguard their future.  It makes good sense and it is the least that we can offer our future generations. Together with our brothers and sisters in the Church of Ireland, and with many Religious Congregations in Ireland that have already divested, we now call on all faith organisations at home and abroad to consider joining the global divestment movement.”

N.B.  The picture above shows climate justice prayer ribbons which were collected at World Meeting Of Families and taken to Katowice as part of the Climate Pilgrimage.

Image: Silence and Hope


Ross Ahlfeld writes this week's blog and reflects on how he has been inspired by his son to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

Every Christmas, I dig out this old newspaper front page from Christmas Eve, 2003. The headline proclaims ‘Last mad dash to the shops’ while the photograph presents a dizzying scene of consumers in a blur, frantically trying to purchase last minute gifts. 

It really could be a hellish vision of almost everything wrong with the dehumanising materialism of Christmas, with all its vacuous misery of spending money we don’t have, on stuff we don’t need. 

Fortunately, at the centre of this chaotic backdrop stands a beautiful little two-year-old boy, transfixed by his balloon, completely oblivious to the bedlam taking place all around him.  This powerful image has always helped me to reflect on how we might approach the celebration of Christmas.

Specifically, the child’s fascination with only his balloon causes me to contemplate Hebrews 12:2 – “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.” The picture also encourages us to meditate on the biblical commendation to “become like little children, otherwise, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

Of course, we are all very different. Some take great pleasure in buying gifts for loved ones amid all the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Others feel totally overwhelmed by the cacophony of sounds, the vast crowds and bright lights - they are left feeling utterly detached from it all, just as the toddler pictured remains disconnected from all the frenetic movement going on about him. Indeed, many of us feel that our senses are being flooded at this time of year and we end up quite distressed by the entire retail experience. 

Yet this same anxiety and sensory overload is the world which some (but not all) Autistic children and adults encounter every single day, not just at Christmas time.

Undoubtedly, we have a great deal to learn from our friends and family members on the autism spectrum, especially within the Church. Not for nothing is it said that the Church is one of the primary places where neurodiversity should be appreciated since “Christians with Aspergers often offer Church the gift of truth-telling”.

Perhaps the alternative to all the noise of secular Christmas is still to be found in the holy silence and stillness of the Church’s preparations for Christmas during Advent.  

 I should say that the little boy is my oldest son, soon to be 18 years old. He’s not just my son but also my friend, I’ve learned a great deal about life from this little boy with the balloon. Like all fathers and sons, we need each other. We are pilgrims on the road together, navigating our way through this often overwhelming and sometimes cruel world. At times we stumble and worry about of what lies further along the road - but it is always hope that drives us forward.

The peace activist Jim Forest describes living in hope as our Christian duty and responsibility. He quotes Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

In truth, Christmas is a time of both silence and hope; the silence of waiting and the hope in God coming to dwell among us, illuminating the world with his love and the promise of life.

Image: Eco friendly Christmas


Sr Margaret Rose Bradley writes our latest blog and reflects on making Christmas environmentally friendly. 

In Britain each year at Christmas we use enough wrapping paper to reach the moon – and most of it can’t be recycled. Yet there are eco-friendly ways to wrap gifts that don’t cost the earth (in any sense).

Last year I bought some eco-friendly gift bags from Amnesty International. Made of newspaper, they were produced by a group in India. The work provided the group with an income, which in turn gave them a way to support their families.

Wrapping gifts in newspaper or brown paper is environmentally friendly and we could make it a fashion statement.

Then there’s the food waste. I was shocked to learn that In Britain alone, 4,000 Christmas dinners are thrown away because too many people buy much more than they need. An organisation called Olio encourages people to share leftover food by advertising the extra food on line. At Christmas they help people to share leftover food. See their website for details.

Christmas is an ideal time to think more carefully about our own recycling and in this way care for the earth as Pope Francis encourages us to do. And we really don’t need the latest fridge or washing machine.

I’m a board member of the charity Glasgow Play-Resource Association (GPA). Originally known as Glasgow Playschemes Association the charity began by people banding together to buy resources. My advice to anyone setting up a similar group is to buy in bulk – it’s often cheaper. And the fun that children get from making their own wee gifts for the family far outweighs expensive bought presents. Used Christmas cards can provide materials for this – so don’t throw them out, save for next year.

GPA now accepts loads of things to recycle – from milk bottle tops to buttons, beads, needles, thread and wool. Empty sweetie tins? Organisations like GPA can use them for arts and crafts with children, young people and older people in nursing homes. Ask around your local area before you consign these sorts of items to the bin. Even your unused stationery could be used by playgroups and craft groups.

All charities have a funding problem. They will be staffed by volunteers so may not get back to you immediately. Be patient and don’t give in to throwing out.
Pope Francis urges us to care for our earthly home. In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, he reminded us that St Francis ‘helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human’. Being imaginative with what is no longer of use to us personally can help change the world.

 Sir David Attenborough told the world leaders that we are at a critical stage of preserving our world. We can all make the three ‘Rs’ our motto in 2019 to preserve our earth for future generations - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Sr Margaret Rose Bradley SND Chairperson, Board of Directors, Glasgow Play-Resource Association. Unit 1, 135 Moffat Street, G5 0ND

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