Synod on the Family: Listening to our sisters living in poverty

Rachel McCarthy is the Theology Programme Communications Coordinator at CAFOD. Rachel coordinates prayer and reflection material such as the Harvest Fast Day prayer.

Last week, I was invited to attend the launch of the book, Catholic women speak: Bringing our gifts to the table, in Rome ahead of the Synod on the Family.

The Catholic women speak network brings together 44 Catholic writers and theologians from across the world. They aim to offer a unique contribution to the discussions around the Synod, by sharing stories of women, especially those who are living in poverty.

Listening to our sisters living in poverty

It was inspiring to listen to many stories of marginalised women. Severine Deneuline, Professor in International Development at the University of Bath said, “Pope Francis talks about being a poor Church for the poor, and we remember that many of the world’s poorest people are women.” Continue reading “Synod on the Family: Listening to our sisters living in poverty”

Laudato Si’: a personal reflection

Kathy McVay is a CAFOD supporter from Sacred Heart parish, Bristol. Kathy reflects on her experience of reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

A song of praise

Laudato Si’ is a paean to God’s creation: humankind, other forms of life on earth, the earth itself, our whole planet. And it is a plea to all people to stop destroying it.

Like the majority of scientists (Pope Francis has a background in chemistry), the Holy Father fears that we are destroying our planet, chiefly by creating climate change. He believes that it is a very real threat to poorer countries who are trying to develop, and also to our children and grandchildren.

This interconnectedness between humankind and the elements is a theme that runs throughout the encyclical.

Pray for our earth

The climate is a common good 

Chapter one is partly a factual account of what is happening to the earth; pollution and climate change, waste and the throwaway culture, the issue of water, the loss of biodiversity. He links these issues with a decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality. Continue reading “Laudato Si’: a personal reflection”

Laudato Si’: catholic with a small ‘c’

This blog is written by Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, Theological Adviser to CAFOD. He reflects on how Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a truly universal message.

Father Augusto Zampini-Davies
Father Augusto Zampini-Davies reflects on how Laudato Si’ is universal and all-embracing

Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ (Praised be), is a truly inspiring and catholic document. It is catholic, with a small ‘c’, in the sense that it is universal and all-embracing.

First, it is catholic because it tackles a global problem, one which affects every single inhabitant of the planet: climate change. Due to the harm we have inflicted on our ‘sister-mother’ earth by the “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” she is crying out for help. But this cry echoes the cry of poor communities and of the earth. The present economic consumerist culture not only damages the earth, but also affects the quality of life of the most vulnerable communities.

Many of our sisters and brothers live in rural areas, as witnessed by CAFOD partners overseas, and they often cannot cultivate their land and need to migrate. Others cannot drink water or breathe fresh air due to the contamination and pollution produced by industrial activity. Many in huge cities live in unhealthy conditions, “while contact with nature is limited, except for areas reserved for a privileged few.” The Pope’s appeal, therefore, is to face these injustices in common, as a human family who dialogues and cares for her common home.

Download our Laudato Si’ reflection

Continue reading “Laudato Si’: catholic with a small ‘c’”

Laudato Si’: generating enough energy to empower the world!

Susy Brouard is CAFOD’s Theological Advisor. Susy has twelve years experience of facilitating workshops on Catholic Social Teaching. But never has she come across a text which has produced so much energy from her participants. She explains why.

Laudato Si'- singing for joy
Parishioners in Birmingham sing, inspired by Laudato Si’

To be perfectly honest with you, Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a facilitator’s dream.

I say this as someone who has, during the last week, facilitated three different workshops on the encyclical. Each workshop – the first with CAFOD volunteers in Birmingham, the second at the CAFOD headquarters with staff, and the third with members of an Anglican Church in central London – filled the participants with energy and joy. In fact, the Birmingham volunteers took Pope Francis’ words of ’sing as you go’ to heart and ended their day of reflection by singing and dancing a conga in the garden!

So what is it about this encyclical that produces so much energy?  This encyclical is unique because it is addressed to every citizen of the earth. Since he wants to communicate with everybody, Pope Francis writes with great clarity and directness. He tells it as it is – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is like looking in a mirror and we realise what madness it is that as humans we are systematically destroying “our common home”.

Liberating effect

While this may be seen as depressing, it is also liberating. We are confronted with what we have done and we can decide whether to continue as we are, or make changes to the way we live and consume. In the workshops, we spent time reflecting on the symptoms of overdevelopment which Pope Francis describes in the first chapter of his encyclical; climate change, mining, water pollution and global inequality, amongst others. From our reading, we came up with key elements that we thought were essential for progress; elements such as education, love, justice, understanding, mindfulness, sacrifice and, of course, God!

Join us in prayer

Continue reading “Laudato Si’: generating enough energy to empower the world!”

Laudato Si’: Caring for the garden of creation

This blog is written by Bernard Shaw from East Anglia diocese. He has been involved with livesimply since 2009, and more recently has been part of a small CAFOD group sharing insights on Catholic Social Teaching and the encyclical. Bernard explains how he is inspired by Laudato Si’.

Bernard with friends from East Anglia at the Speak Up For The Love Of... lobby
Bernard with friends from East Anglia diocese at the Speak Up For The Love Of… lobby

A rich tradition of caring for creation

When explaining his choice of name back in 2013, Pope Francis spoke of St Francis of Assisi as the man of poverty, peace and care for creation, a significant step “in this moment when our relationship with creation is not so good”. This left me with an expectation of development of his predecessors’ teachings in this area and now we have his most comprehensive document yet in Laudato Si’. In it, he calls for global dialogue across disciplines, including a religious contribution, to address humanity’s propensity to pollute and leave so many people living in desperate poverty. Too often economic and political decisions lack the long term vision to recognise environmental impacts. Pope Francis also corrects the notion that biblical texts justify our absolute domination over other creatures, explaining our “duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations”#67.  He outlines the Gospel of Creation and invites everyone to experience an ‘ecological conversion’.

“Creation is a magnificent book in which God speaks to us”

Bernard's parish garden provides flowers throughout the year
Bernard’s parish garden provides flowers throughout the year

One way of protecting the earth, at a personal level, is to use gardens, for those privileged to have them, in a way that encourages wildlife and minimises use of water. Back in 2011, one of our parish flower arrangers here in Cambridge had the idea of using the presbytery garden, consisting of an uneven lawn and neglected borders, for growing flowers for church decoration. It took much communal effort to rid the borders of bindweed and old tree roots.

Now the garden provides flowers for much of the year, replacing financial expenditure with human effort. Slightly encouraged by the CAFOD call to Dig Deep, an area of lawn has since been transformed into a vegetable bed, with lifting of the first potatoes eagerly anticipated.

Follow our tips for low carbon lifestyles Continue reading “Laudato Si’: Caring for the garden of creation”

A New Heaven and a New Earth: Pope Francis on Our Common Home

This blog is written by Celia Deane-Drummond, who is a member of the CAFOD Theological Reference Group, and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She has been writing and publishing on eco-theology for the last twenty years.

“Our home looks like an immense pile of filth”

Laudato Si’ is not for the faint hearted. Pope Francis, like Liberation Theologians, is prepared to go into the mud, as it were, of our own making and dwell there for a while.

The encyclical reads like a Psalmist cry of lament peppered with examples of our own degraded earth; “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more like an immense pile of filth” #21. This implies that creatures once capable of offering a cry of praise are now silenced.

That this degradation is of our own doing is there for all to see, but for Francis it reflects a wider cultural carelessness and indifference about building relationships with each other and with the earth; a neglect of the most vulnerable in society. He points to the violence meted out on the earth and each other in the name of false ideals of progress, understood in terms of relentless growth and consumer capitalism.

Climate change impacts vulnerable communities

And for those who wondered how far Pope Francis would take on board the climate debate, it is clear that, chemist by training, he would have no ambiguity in his mind about the validity of human sources of climate change. He is suitably nuanced in his claim, so “a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases…released mainly as a result of human activity” #23.

A model of development based on the use of fossil fuels simply will not work, and he is adamant that use of coal needs to stop. He recognises, too, that the brunt of climate change impacts are felt by those who are most vulnerable in society, leading to forced migrations and loss of livelihood.

Take action on climate change Continue reading “A New Heaven and a New Earth: Pope Francis on Our Common Home”

‘Our common home’: a challenge and an opportunity

This blog is written by Linda Jones, Head of the CAFOD Theology Programme. Linda shares her initial response to the Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

I have to admit that sometimes reading Church documents can feel more of a duty than a joy. But reading the new encyclical, Laudato Si’: on the care of our common home is a completely different experience.

I feel full of joy and excitement. I can sense possibilities, hope and new opportunities. Pope Francis draws a stark and troubling picture of reality, but also reminds us that change is possible and that we can work together to care for creation.

The choice to care for creation, rather than exploiting the earth for our own short-term gain, will demand that humanity itself must change. We can no longer live as if our actions have no consequences, nor can we continue to put economic growth and consumption above all else. We have not taken into account the costs to ourselves as humans of prioritising economic growth over human flourishing, nor have we sufficiently considered the cost to our environment.

“The climate is a common good,” Pope Francis writes, “belonging to all and meant for all.” And yet the earth, our sister, “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

Sign our petition on climate change

Continue reading “‘Our common home’: a challenge and an opportunity”

A people of hope

This blog is written by Rachel McCarthy who works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. It is the first of a series inviting you to share your joys and hopes, and to pray for people living in poverty at Lent

Rwanda- writing in a journal
Keep a hope journal this Lent

As we journey through Lent, take time to reflect on your joys, hopes, concerns and inspirations by keeping a hope journal. In a spirit of solidarity, we hold in our prayers the joys and hopes of our global family.

Follow our daily reflections with the CAFOD Lent calendar

2015 is the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes. We are called to share the “joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of our global neighbours, especially those who are living in poverty.

Continue reading “A people of hope”