Year of Mercy, Doors of Mercy

On International Migrants Day, CAFOD’s Susy Brouard reflects on the Jubilee of Mercy and compassion for refugees.

Susy Brouard from CAFOD’s Theology Programme reflects on the new Doors of Mercy which are being opened around the world, and the ones which already exist…..

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Parishioners hold a silent vigil in solidarity with refugees

Last week Pope Francis launched the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by pushing open the normally bricked-up bronze doors of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was the very first Door of Mercy to be opened this Jubilee year, which began 8 December. The Holy Father asked Catholics that as they walk through it, they should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.

Throughout England and Wales, dioceses, schools and parishes have taken up the Pope’s initiative in diverse ways – my personal favourite is the Jubilee of Mercy double-decker bus which will tour parts of Greater Manchester and Lancaster come February next year. Inside, priests will be available for confession, a blessing or simply a chat.

Opening new Doors of Mercy is a fantastic idea which will open up spaces where people can find healing and reconciliation. However, last week, in conversation with a Religious sister who works with vulnerable women, she raised the fact that there already are, within and outside the Catholic Church, Doors of Mercy, which people walk through daily and find places of healing and sanctuary. How true, I thought!

Download our Jubilee of Mercy reflection

Opening Doors of Mercy

As a CAFOD member of staff I began to reflect on where the Doors of Mercy are in our work. I thought immediately of the work that our sister agencies in the Caritas network are doing with refugees. Surely any entrance to a building which provides a safe refuge for those who have nothing is a Door of Mercy? Surely any entrance to a building which provides sanitation facilities, psychosocial support and above all, a warm and genuine welcome, is a Door of Mercy? These Doors, as well as the new ones, need to be highlighted and celebrated.

Continue reading “Year of Mercy, Doors of Mercy”

Sr Karen: Why I’m travelling to Paris with CAFOD for climate change action

Sr Karen d’Artois OP is a Dominican nun from the Archdiocese of Westminster. She’s part of a delegation of CAFOD campaigners travelling to the UN ‘COP21’ meeting in Paris, calling on world leaders to agree to action on climate change to prevent people in the poorest communities being pushed deeper into poverty.

Sr Karen joined tens of thousands of people marching through London for action on climate change
Sr Karen joined tens of thousands of people marching through London for action on climate change

I learned very young, when I was aged 10, that politics isn’t a ‘spectator sport’.

Studying Politics at university, I realised the same about my Catholic faith. That belief inspired my vocation as a Dominican Sister: to bring together faith and politics in the quest for truth.

To me, the idea that ‘faith has no place in politics’ is rubbish! Faith, in some form, is the basis of every person’s thinking and acting. Jesus criticised the unjust political and social circumstances of his day and appealed for change: he called it the Kingdom of God. As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to help build that Kingdom — where justice and opportunity are within everyone’s reach.

Learn about Pope Francis’s Encyclical

The Climate Summit in Paris is a chance to speak up for planet Earth and the goodness of creation. It’s at risk from our reckless behaviour and misuse of resources. Faith and politics aren’t opposites; they depend on one another. My Catholic faith is the foundation of my politics and activism, and politics informs my faith. Continue reading “Sr Karen: Why I’m travelling to Paris with CAFOD for climate change action”

Climate change: The Laudato Si’ challenge

Paul Kelly CAFOD supporter at laudato Si' dayPaul Kelly is a CAFOD supporter in the Lancaster diocese. He will be travelling to Paris in December 2015 as part of a supporter delegation at the time of the UN climate talks.

With the UN Summit on Climate Change due to start in Paris in a week’s time, it couldn’t have been better timing for a CAFOD study day on the Encyclical letter Laudato Si’.

Sign our petition to world leaders in response to Laudato Si’

As a CAFOD supporter, and member of the Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice Commission Environment Group, I travelled from North-West England for the event, held on Saturday 7 November in Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Journey with us

The opening prayer litany set the tone: “If you are asking questions such as: What is the purpose of my life in this world? What is the goal of my work and all my efforts, then journey with us;” “If you think we were made for love and therefore that gestures of generosity, solidarity and care can well up within us, then journey with us.” Continue reading “Climate change: The Laudato Si’ challenge”

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!”

Who do you say I am?

This reflection and prayer, based on the gospel for Sunday 28 June, Matthew 16:13-19, were written by Matthew Sanderson, who is the Executive Assistant to the Director of CAFOD.

“Who do you say I am?”

Matthew Sanderson on a recent trip visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
Matthew Sanderson visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador

What were your first thoughts of God? What did you imagine God to be? For me, God was a figure sat on a cloud with a beard, or someone who wagged his finger from on high. As I have grown up, so too has my answer to the question ‘Who do I say God is?’

For me, God is love. That is who I say God is.

Last week saw the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Pope Francis is clear that God made us all out of love and to love.

Reflect on Pope Francis’ encyclical

We are reminded in the encyclical that “the entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si’ section #84). I am reminded of this when I see the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.

What’s more, the special love of the Creator means each human being is “conceived in the heart of God” (#65). As children of God, we have an inherent dignity, not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s love for us.

We can reflect God’s love for us in our daily lives as “we were made for love” (#58). By remaining in God’s love, may we come to know the Lord more and more each day.

Lord, we give thanks for your love and the world around us. We pray that we continually realise that we were made for love. Amen.

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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”

Pope Francis speaks up for our common home

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, from Manila in the Philippines, is President of CAFOD partner Caritas Internationalis. He reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical and the devastating typhoon that hit his country in 2013.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle - Caritas - CAFODI do not need to tell the people in my country that we are living in a time of crisis. When Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation across the Philippines in November 2013, it was immaterial as to whether it was caused by climate change or not; people suffered and the poorest were hit hardest. In such times of crisis what should our response be?

Climate change affects the dignity of the most vulnerable

In the Encyclical Laudato Si’ released this week, Pope Francis acknowledges the seriousness of climate change and how it is affecting the dignity of the most vulnerable, as well as the harmony between humans and nature. In the light of the Gospel of Creation, he calls us all to urgently respond to protect the gift of creation and the richness of life. He challenges us all, governments, businesses and citizens, to look deep within ourselves and find a common answer reflecting all peoples’ voices, for the appropriate response is not an easy or simple issue to be solved. This is a deeply rooted problem, which goes to the heart of who we are and our values.

Find prayers inspired by Laudato Si’

In line with his predecessors, Pope Francis is looking at the signs of the times that confront us. Laudato Si’ is a powerful and inspiring document calling us to a greater solidarity with the environment, a solidarity that binds the caring for people and caring for the environment. We must recalibrate our relationship with nature, the garden God has created for us, which we have looked upon as a subordinate to our desires and extracted from mercilessly without fear of the consequences.

The environmental crisis is affecting our brothers and sisters worldwide

I hear more and more from my brothers and sisters across the world about how the environmental crisis is already affecting them. CAFOD has reported that more than 400 million of the world’s poorest people – more than the total population of the USA and the UK put together – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the leading scientific authority on the issue whose findings are backed by governments worldwide – has said with 95 percent certainty in its 2013 report that humans are the main cause of climate change. Pope Francis writes that climate change is “one of the principal challenges facing humanity” where the “huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world.” Continue reading “Pope Francis speaks up for our common home”