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Catholics Meet on Environmental Justice and Climate Change

November 29th, 2012

Between November 8-10, 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic University of America, Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies (CUA) and Catholic Coalition on Climate Change co-sponsored a scholars conference titled: A Catholic Consultation on Environmental Justice and Climate Change: Assessing Pope Benedict XVI’s Ecological Vision for the Catholic Church in the United States. The USCCB published a press release about the conference.

The conference was held at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and explored the substance and implications of recent papal teaching—particularly Pope Benedict XVI, building on the witness of his predecessors—on environment and creation, especially the links between natural ecology and human ecology, solidarity and environmental justice, care for creation and care for the poor and vulnerable, and between worship of the Creator and care for creation. Other topics included Catholic contributions to cosmology and a sacramental vision of Creation.

The conference began on Thursday, November 8 with a keynote address from Most Reverend Bernard Unabali, Bishop of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Bishop Unabali reflected on his work helping to re-settle some of the world’s first “climate change refugees,” inhabitants of the Carteret Islands. Catholic News Service has published a story about Bishop Unabali. And see another story from CNS which details Bishop Unabali’s visit.

At the conclusion of the third session on Friday, November 9, the scholars, moderators, and staff of the co-sponsoring institutions attended Mass celebrated by Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane, Honorary Chairperson of the Coalition and Past President of the USCCB. At the Mass, homilist Bishop Donald Kettler of Fairbanks encouraged the scholars’ work and sharing a story about how rising seas and harsher storms due to climate change are engulfing a village in his diocese. Several other bishops attended both the conference and celebration of the mass, including: Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice (FL); Bishop John Ricard, Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento.

The final session on Saturday morning summarized what was learned and outline steps moving forward. For more information, please visit the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change in the weeks ahead. You can subscribe to their regular e-newsletter on their website.

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