News sources have been abuzz about the Vatican summit on climate change that just concluded and the upcoming encyclical on the environment. The summit also comes on the heels of Pope Francis’ remarks on Earth Day.
While much is being said about the summit and Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical, there appears to little to no mention of the role liturgy can play in reshaping the conversation.
The Vatican summit on climate change wrapped up yesterday and called for decisive action on climate change as “a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” The summit titled “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: the Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity” was organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace. More than 100 experts from various fields attended the conference.
The statement issued from the summit was rather direct in its call for decisive action to address this global problem. The statement also called on the world’s religions to play a strategic role in developing a solution to this man-made problem. However, nothing concrete was said about the way in which the world’s religions can or should fight this crisis.
Adding more authority to the summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the summit and called attention to the global effort that will be required to address climate change. Quotes from his address can be found here.
This summit comes at a time when the Vatican is pushing for a greater awareness of the problems of climate change, while also attempting to lead a global campaign to address the crisis.
With Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment completed and scheduled for release in the coming months, it is clear that the Vatican is poised to become a prophetic voice and a strategic leader in the fight to end man-made climate change. It will be interesting to see what concrete proposes Pope Francis’ encyclical recommends and whether his encyclical makes connections to the Church’s liturgy.
With this push by the Vatican to rally global support for concrete steps to address climate change, I am left wondering how we can make our liturgies prophetic instruments for change.
Liturgists and liturgical scholars have long reflected on the transformative power of ritual. Our liturgical celebrations are times when we come together to be nourished and transformed, and then sent back into the world on mission.
I have often been critical of the intellectualism and lack of embodiment that seems to be so pervasive in our liturgical celebrations today. I will refrain from stepping onto that soapbox for now, but I do wonder what we can concretely do in our liturgical celebrations to bring about a greater awareness of the problems facing our planet today.
In what ways can our liturgical celebrations be a prophetic voice and a transformative power for change in the fight to end global warming?
The connection between our liturgies and the environment is fundamental to our sacramental system. It is based in the importance of the incarnation. In our sacraments water is poured, bread and wine is shared, and oil is spread. A latent concern for the environment lies at the heart of our sacramental system.
What resources do you know of that speak to the connection between liturgy and the environment? What concrete practices could help us be more attentive to our sacramental system’s latent concern for the environment? How can the liturgy bring about transformation in regards to climate change?
Please comment below.
Below you can find the full text from the summit. CNN is also producing an interesting project on global climate change titled “2 degrees.” The project discusses the impact a 2 degree change in global temperature would have on our planet. It is worth checking out.
Declaration of Religious Leaders, Political Leaders, Business Leaders, Scientists and Development Practitioners (28 April 2015)
We the undersigned have assembled at the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences to address the challenges of human-induced climate change, extreme poverty, and social marginalization, including human trafficking, in the context of sustainable development. We join together from many faiths and walks of life, reflecting humanity’s shared yearning for peace, happiness, prosperity, justice, and environmental sustainability. We have considered the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the vulnerabilities of the poor to economic, social, and environmental shocks.
In the face of the emergencies of human-induced climate change, social exclusion, and extreme poverty, we join together to declare that: Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity; In this core moral space, the world’s religions play a very vital role. These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity.
They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home; The poor and excluded face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the increased frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels; The world has within its technological grasp, financial means, and know-how the means to mitigate climate change while also ending extreme poverty, through the application of sustainable development solutions including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems supported by information and communications technologies; The financing of sustainable development, including climate mitigation, should be bolstered through new incentives for the transition towards low-carbon energy, and through the relentless pursuit of peace, which also will enable the shift of public financing from military spending to urgent investments for sustainable development.
The world should take note that the climate summit in Paris later this year (COP21) may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human- 2 induced warming below 2-degrees C, and aim to stay well below 2-degree C for safety, yet the current trajectory may well reach a devastating 4-degrees C or higher; Political leaders of all UN member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 to a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives.
The high-income countries should help to finance the costs of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries as the high-income countries have promised to do; Climate-change mitigation will require a rapid world transformation to a world powered by renewable and other low-carbon energy and the sustainable management of ecosystems. These transformations should be carried out in the context of globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, consistent with ending extreme poverty; ensuring universal access for healthcare, quality education, safe water, and sustainable energy; and cooperating to end human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery; All sectors and stakeholders must do their part, a pledge that we fully commit to in our individual capacities.