A worldwide advocate on climate change and expert on the Pope’s encyclical on Care for our Common Home or Laudato Si’, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Rome), was the keynote speaker on Saturday, October 31, 2015, at Martin de Porres Center.
Cardinal Turkson, a native of Ghana, emphasized that Laudato Si’ is not the “Pope’s encyclical on climate change but rather a social encyclical on integral and human ecology. It is a pastoral document, not a scientific one.” Turkson commented, “I read the encyclical somewhat as I read Scripture – finding something new with each reading.”
The morning began with a prayer that included an inspirational video on Laudato Si’ produced by the Vatican – https://youtu.be/1tYdOIqvpqg
“Francis does not pretend to be a scientist,” Turkson said. “The competence of his religious authority is captured in the image of a polyhedron, a many-sided object with a central core. In order to understand it, one must look at it from many sides. In the area of climate change, one must listen to many sides of the issue. The church has a right to contribute to this discussion from its pastoral expertise.”
Turkson noted that one might look at the encyclical through the lens of “the five Cs”: continuity with the teaching of the popes, beginning with John XXIII; collegiality as it draws on the teaching of Bishops’ Conferences around the world; care for Earth which implies passionate involvement with creation; the conversion demanded of all of us and celebration for life.
“For Pope Francis, being protective of both creation and the human person is simply what it means to be human,” the Cardinal said. “The encyclical challenges us to move away from our use of fossil fuels and encourages business to see this shift as an economic opportunity. Carbon can have a different future; it has many uses beyond energy production. People can still find employment with these new and creative industries.”
Following Turkson’s remarks, a panel of individuals from government, business and science commented on the encyclical, each from his/her own perspective. “I was so impressed by the panelists who honestly and freely shared both their faith and their professional expertise,” said Sr. Patricia Twohill, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. “The entire event modeled a way for us to engage in serious and charitable dialogue.”
“Pope Francis has a comprehensive grasp of all the issues and understands that social and environmental issues are integrally related and must be addressed together,” said Sr. Sharon Zayac, OP (Springfield, IL), member of the Alliance Eco-Justice Committee. Zayac recommended parish involvement through listening to parishioners’ stories and hearing the needs and concerns of the individual parish. These become the medium to energize parish involvement.
Dan Mislek, National Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, Washington, DC, thanked women religious for their long history of involvement in ecology. He also invited the participants to take the St. Francis pledge and to create Creation Care Teams in their parishes. (Information is found at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org).
“I am greatly encouraged that our Church community is committed to care for the Earth,” said Sr. Marguerite Chandler, OP, (Blacklick, OH), member of the Dominican Alliance Eco-Justice Committee. “For 16 years our committee has been networking among our religious congregations to advance the vision of community as inclusive of all creation. Pope Francis encourages me to continue in this work.”
The event was sponsored by the Ohio Catholic Conference, the Catholic Diocese of Columbus and the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Representatives from all six Ohio dioceses attended as well as the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and the Eco-Justice Committee of the Dominican Alliance.
Cardinal Turkson spoke at Ohio State University Monday evening and will speak at Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA) later in the week.