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Franciscans Send Climate Change Letter to President Trump

(Image courtesy of Catholic Climate Covenant)

The leaders of more than 150 Catholic religious communities, colleges, national organizations, and health care providers have sent a letter to President Donald Trump and members of Congress, asking them to take specific steps to reduce the impact of climate change. In the letter, issued Nov. 16, the signers affirm the Church’s longstanding commitment to caring for creation and the poor. They urged government leaders to fund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; meaningfully participate in the deliberations of the UNFCCC, and honor U.S. commitments to the Green Climate Fund.

The letter, which was written by the Catholic Climate Covenant, began:

As leaders of Catholic organizations in the United States, we write with one voice to urge you to reassert U.S. leadership in the global effort to address climate change. On behalf of people who are poor and vulnerable and future generations, we especially ask that you act based upon the best available climate science; fund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; honor U.S. commitments to the Green Climate Fund; and meaningfully participate in the deliberations of the UNFCCC.

The Catholic Church has long called for a prudent approach to creation. In 1971, Paul VI wrote, “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation.” His successors, Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have advanced the Church’s call for us to care for creation, a tenet of Catholic social teaching.

Catholic leaders across the nation and world have explicitly and consistently affirmed climate change as a moral issue that threatens core Catholic commitments, including to: protect human life, promote human dignity, exercise a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, advance the common good, live in solidarity with future generations, and care for God’s creation which is our common home.

On behalf of people who are poor and vulnerable and future generations, we especially ask that you act based upon the best available climate science; fund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; honor U.S. commitments to the Green Climate Fund; and meaningfully participate in the deliberations of the UNFCCC.

The text of the two-page letter was followed by 10 pages of names of Catholic leaders who agree with the initiative.

“Given the gravity of the climate situation in our world, there was no doubt in my mind that we Franciscans would be part of this important initiative,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. ”I encourage friars to share this information with ministries and to explore action that they can take.”

“There are several ways to help the situation,” said Russ Testa, director of the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. “We recommend writing to your legislators to ask them to support congressional funding of $10 million for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We also suggest writing letters to the editor.”

He added, “Be sure to share the letter that the Catholic leaders sent last week. Friars can distribute it to their ministry members and everyone – friars and laypeople – can post it on social media.”

The importance of this letter cannot be overstated, according to the Catholic Climate Covenant’s executive director Dan Misleh.

“It shows a unified Catholic community that is concerned about the neglect of our common home and that, in accord with the principle of subsidiarity, governmental action – along with our individual and organizational commitments to care for creation and the poor – is an important piece to the solutions puzzle,” said Misleh. “It also demonstrates that the U.S. Catholic community is heeding the call by Pope Francis and his predecessors to promote an integral ecology: one that more intentionally examines three overlapping relationships: with God, with one another, and with the earth.

“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si.’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth,” Misleh said in an America magazine article titled “Catholic Eco-activists Frustrated that U.S. Left Behind as Climate Change Efforts Negotiated in Bonn.” And, he adds to be “more cognizant of our impacts on the earth and on the earth’s most economically and ecologically vulnerable people.”

Also this month, Pope Francis issued a letter to the COP 23 climate conference that took place Nov. 6 to 17 in Bonn, Germany.

In it, the pope congratulated the world leaders present at the COP-23 event and invited them “to maintain a high level of cooperation.” He renewed his “urgent call” for renewed dialogue “on how we are building the future of the planet.”

Information about how to help the environment can be found on the Catholic Climate Covenant’s website.

Through the years, friars and their partners-in-ministry have worked to advocate for the care of the planet. Among the initiatives in which they have participated are marches, global fasts, letter-writing, polar bear plunges, and showing of educational films. In the fall of 2015, Franciscans were involved when world leaders gathered in Paris for two weeks of discussions about reducing manmade causes of climate change.

Resources about climate change can be found in the Justice and Peace section of HNP.org. Information about the letter to the Trump Administration can be obtained from the Catholic Climate Covenant at 202-756-5545 and jose@catholicclimatecovenant.org.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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