As the Australian Church celebrates Laudato Si’ Week and as the nation prepares to cast their votes in the federal election, you are invited to reflect on the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Social Justice Statement for 2021-22: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor.
The title of the Social Justice Statement 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 the Social Justice Statement, the Australian Bishops affirm the urgent need to respond to climate change and other aspects of the global ecological crisis. During the time the statement was launched, 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.”
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s response to Pope Francis’ invitation to commit to a seven-year journey of putting environmental sustainability and social justice into practice. The 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.
On Earth Day, 22 April, the Diocese of Parramatta responded to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor by launching a Diocesan Laudato Si’ Action Campaign. Via a video message, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv invites all people in the Diocese, especially all Catholic schools, parishes, families, and organisations to participate.
The Diocese of Parramatta is embarking on a seven-year journey towards achieving seven Laudato Si’ Goals, which means to care more deeply for God’s creation and our sisters and brothers in need. This commitment is made in response to the invitation from Pope Francis and the Australian Catholic Bishops to embark on such a journey.
On a Diocesan level, the commitment entails annual self-assessments, development and implementation of a Laudato Si’ Action Plan, and reporting to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
All communities within the Diocese of Parramatta are invited to consider their own response to the Pope’s call and to develop their own Laudato Si’ Action Plan, building on the inspiring action that many families, schools, parishes, and organisations are already taking.
All parishes, schools, families and organisations are encouraged to join the Catholic Earthcare Programs and gain access to helpful tools and support for this endeavour.
As Bishop Vincent and other members of the Diocesan community explain in the launch video, we live in a time of ecological crisis; a crisis that humankind has caused, and that we can see and feel right here in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
As Christians, we are called to set bold examples of how humans can care more deeply for God’s creation and our sisters and brothers in need. This is an integral part of our mission as Church – as the Pilgrim People of God. Pope Francis reminds us that the Church can be a beacon of hope in these challenging times.
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:
You can find the Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor statement, the podcast, prayer cards and other helpful resources at socialjustice.catholic.org.au.
If you have any questions or require any support regarding the Diocesan Laudato Si’ Action Plan, please contact the Laudato Si’ Action Team via firstname.lastname@example.org
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator of the Diocese of Parramatta.