WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ leaders called on Catholics to join people around the world in praying for the care of God’s creation Sept. 1, a day specially designated by Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders for prayer and action for Earth.
Prayer can unite people in understanding the importance of what the pope has called “integral ecology,” which calls for having right relationships with God, other human beings and Earth, said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
In a statement released Sept. 1 to mark the day, the bishops said that prayer helps build a foundational relationship with God. “It (prayer) also reminds us that amidst the great challenges of global climate change, pollution in our local communities and the deepening ecological crises all around us, we can relate to a creator who is greater than any challenge and for whom ‘all things are possible,'” they said.
They explained that the pope’s 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” calls humans to be better stewards of the Earth.
The bishops extended the invitation to people of all religions, particularly “our Jewish and Muslim friends,” who, like Catholics, “see Abraham as our ‘father in faith.'”
The prelates also suggested steps to turn “prayer into witness.” Again citing the pope’s encyclical, the bishops point to the practical steps anyone can take, such as recycling, turning off unnecessary lights and using public transportation.
“We can begin, in these ordinary settings, to care in deeper ways for the good things God has given us,” the bishops wrote. “This attitude of stewardship, forged in daily life, will, in turn, allow us to participate in the greater national and international efforts to care for the Earth and for future generations.”
In a separate message, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, asked people to pray for the life-sustaining resources God has provided humanity and “for the strength to sustain individual, community, national and global efforts to care for our common home.”
He said Pope Francis invited people to “a serious examination of conscience” in order to “confess our sins against the creator, against creation and against our brothers and sisters.”
“When we care for the environment, we are caring for ourselves and each other,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “Pope Francis speaks of an ‘integral ecology’ because no divide exists between serving as good stewards of the Earth and serving our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”
He also suggested that practices of good stewardship can be found in daily routines of recycling, adjusting thermostats, consuming only what is necessary and using reusable containers. “These small seeds can grow into broader, stronger, sustainable public policy,” the USCCB president said.