The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Social Justice Statement for 2021-22 Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor was launched last week. The title highlights a central theme from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home (2015): the close connection between care for creation and social justice. As the Pope explains, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (Laudato Si’, no. 49)
For decades, Catholics around the world, together with people of other faiths and goodwill, have been promoting ways of caring for our natural environment. Likewise, they have sought to show compassion, solidarity and care to the poor, vulnerable and marginalised. The need for both has drastically increased with the immediate impacts of climate change. The most vulnerable people and nations are already being hit hardest by extreme weather events like floods, bushfires, droughts or tropical storms.
In their new Social Justice Statement, the Australian Bishops affirm the urgent need to respond to climate change and other aspects of the global ecological crisis. Just this week, two international reports highlighted the importance of the Australian Bishops’ message:
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Sixth Assessment Report
- Greenpeace: The State of the Climate in the Pacific 2021 Report
As Bishop Don Sproxton from the Archdiocese of Perth states in a Social Justice Statement launch video, “The call to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor has never been louder.”
In the light of this urgency, Pope Francis has recently invited families, parishes, dioceses and others to commit to a seven-year journey of putting environmental sustainability and social justice into practice. Seven Laudato Si’ Goals have been formulated to guide this journey, and a Laudato Si’ Action Platform has been launched to facilitate it and provide useful information and tools.
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’ response to Pope Francis’ invitation. The new Social Justice Statement provides theological foundations to ground and inspire efforts to care for creation while responding to the needs of the disadvantaged and excluded. The Australian Bishops make an historic commitment to work towards a more sustainable Church and set out a roadmap for the seven-year journey. They call on the entire Catholic community in Australia to join them in taking up Pope Francis’ invitation.
As Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta, we can walk this road together: in families, parishes and schools, as people of God in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. For starters, we are invited to read Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor or listen to it as a podcast. You can find the statement, the podcast, prayer cards and other helpful resources at socialjustice.catholic.org.au.
Just as important is our prayer. By praying to God and by “listening with an open heart to those who are most affected, we can begin, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discern the signs of the times”. Let us pray together:
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator of the Diocese of Parramatta.