JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNS) — Setting up a Catholic justice and peace commission in Jakarta was a major achievement for Indonesian Cardinal-designate Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, who recently urged environmental awareness in a nation with a severe plastic waste problem.

Through a video message shown across all Indonesian parishes in January, the archbishop of Jakarta urged Catholics to reduce their use of plastic and plastic bags due to their harmful impact on the environment, ucanews.com reported. He cited the case of a beached whale that died in November 2018 in South East Sulawesi province. A post-mortem found its stomach was stuffed full of about 13 pounds of plastic.

Cardinal-designate Suharyo, 69, president of the Indonesian bishops’ conference, is the only Asian among the 13 prelates who will join the College of Cardinals Oct. 5.

In 2016, the Archdiocese of Jakarta established a justice and peace commission to help address problems faced by marginalized groups in Indonesia’s capital city. Cardinal-designate Suharyo told ucanews.com, “The commission is important, especially in a big city such as Jakarta where there is so much injustice.”

He said setting up the commission was one of his aims when he became Jakarta’s archbishop in 2010. The number of people who cannot access government assistance because they have no identity cards is rising, and more people face violence, unfair trials and forced eviction by the authorities.

The cardinal-designate was born in July 9, 1950, in Sedayu, near the city of Yogyakarta. He was ordained in 1976 in Semarang; in 1997, he was ordained a bishop and served as archbishop of Semarang. He was transferred to Jakarta as coadjutor in 2009.

“He is a passionate shepherd, not only for Catholics but also other people of different religions. … His personal touch makes everyone comfortable,” Gomar Gultom, secretary of the Protestant Indonesian Communion of Churches, said after it was announced he would be made a cardinal.

Ahmad Syafii Maarif, former leader of Indonesia’s 25 million member Muhammadiyah group, said, “This is an extraordinary gift from the pope to the Indonesian people.” Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country.

The cardinal-designate is a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and also serves as military bishop for Indonesia.

Last November, he was reelected president of the bishops’ conference for an unprecedented third term; he will head the conference until 2021.

“The Catholic Church wants human rights respected and protected,” he said after the bishops’ meeting, which discussed the government’s failure to address past human rights abuses. The “right to life and human dignity” are at the core of all rights, he told ucanews.com.

The cardinal-designate was referring to abuses committed in the three decades of rule by dictator Suharto. Suharto led the military against what was called an attempted communist coup in 1965, and more than 500,000 people were killed in an anti-communist purge after his takeover. Before he was overthrown in 1998 during Asia’s financial crisis, many of his political opponents were jailed, killed or sent to labor camps.

In the run-up to regional and local elections in 2018, Cardinal-designate Suharyo told reporters that many politicians want money, power and prestige and this “could become an enemy of the unity in Indonesia.”

In his video calling on parishioners to take action against plastic waste, he warned that “our country is becoming the world’s second-largest producer of plastic waste.”

Indonesia deals with about 64 million tons of plastic a year; 3.2 million tons of it ends up in the ocean, environmental groups say. China, Thailand and Indonesia are considered the continent’s top three offenders in terms of poor waste management.