Pope Francis invited the world to pray for Creation on September 1. In his words: “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore His help for the protection of creation as well as His pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
This invitation accompanied the Pope’s environmental encyclical (letter) “Laudato Si”, which has received support and accolades from environmentalists and world leaders alike for its analysis of and conclusions about the reasons for climate change today. The Catholic Church has also joined other Christian churches in a worldwide celebration of the Season of Creation from September 1 to October 4, St Francis of Assisi’s feast day.
Pope Francis firmly points to consumerism and obsession with material things as the main drivers for our failure to live up to the obligation to be stewards of all creation. Creation is a gift from God and we were entrusted to use the resources respectfully and responsibly (Genesis 2:15), keeping in mind future generations, as well as the poorest in society as they suffer the most from climate change.
We in the Caribbean are also being impacted by the effects of excessive plundering of natural resources worldwide: overfishing; pollution of the seas, gullies and watercourses; emission of fossil fuels; destruction of mangroves; our coral reefs are dying; and we are even seeing some species become extinct. We are also experiencing rising temperatures and rising tides. All life depends on clean air and water, and a stable climate. That was God’s plan.
In Barbados, before the environment became a ‘hot’ topic, our own Bishop Emeritus Anthony Dickson was promoting stewardship of the environment, and in 2003 he influenced his fellow Caribbean bishops to produce a Pastoral Letter on the subject. At the 2018 Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today held in Suriname, Bishop Dickson was honoured “for his pioneering work in environmental advocacy” in the Caribbean Church. The RC Diocese of Bridgetown is proud of Bishop Dickson’s work and congratulates him for his visionary leadership in this area. (See below some tips from Bishop Dickson)
The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is an opportunity for all of us as individuals, as Church and as society, to reflect on whether we are fulfilling our responsibility as stewards of the earth. Have we cared for and tilled the land responsibly? Have we been our brothers’ keepers? What should each one of us be doing to ensure we are “strict guardians of our heritage”?
Among other things, Pope Francis has also asked us to make special room for young people in the efforts to foster an integral ecology. He noted: “It is the young who will have to face the consequences of the current environmental and climate crisis. Consequently, intergenerational solidarity ‘is not optional’.”
Taking his lead, we urge families and schools to reflect on the Creation Story, particularly during the Season of Creation, and make a positive step to take special care of the environment. I enjoin local Catholics and the wider Barbadian society to commit or recommit to what the Pope describes as “an integral ecology” which requires accepting that “everything is connected”; that what I do upstream affects those downstream. There is only so much pressure that our ecological network – and our human-made environmental management systems – can absorb, as we experienced right here not too long ago.
Let us help each other to ecological conversion. Kudos to those persons and organizations who have been demonstrating care and responsibility for God’s creation – whether through reducing, recycling and reusing, lowering water and electricity consumption, reforestation, beach clean-ups, and so on.
Let us also ask God’s forgiveness for not acting as responsible stewards, and let us make a clean start for the sake of creation, for our sake and for the sake of future generations. We must do this together.
Tips from Bishop Dickson
• Reduce the use of plastic and paper products.
• Trap rain water and reduce pipe-borne water consumption – Barbados is a water-scarce country.
• Separate refuse – our landfill is overloaded. Make use of recyclers. Try composting.
• Cook only what is reasonably required. Avoid waste.
• Develop a loving care for other beings – they are our cousins.
• Conserve petroleum. Try carpooling and agitate for efficient and effective public transport.
• Revere trees. Plant where possible.
• Turn off unused lights.
• Avoid littering and dumping. Littering on the beach may cause death to marine life.