CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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The Pope Francis Effect on climate negotiations

HONG KONG (SE): Although world leaders gathered in Paris for the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change say that the eyes of the world are on them, judging by the scant coverage in some newspapers most eyes are probably looking elsewhere.

However, a study released in November by Yale University in the United States of America says that there is much evidence showing that many eyes turned towards Paris have been directed by what it calls The Pope Francis Effect, since his encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’), was released in June.

The study says that more Americans are now concerned about global warming than six months ago and that 17 per cent of Americans and 35 per cent of Catholics say that Pope Francis has awakened their consciousness and prompted them to take more interest.

It adds that Catholics have also begun to see climate change as a moral issue and that climate protection initiatives have increased in number among people of all faiths and none.

In Hong Kong, the pope’s encyclical has prompted a group calling themselves Angels on Earth to take on the challenge of raising awareness around parishes of the power of micro action in protecting the environment.

At a launch of the group, held in the swirling mist in the Victoria Peak Garden on December 5, Francis Ngai Wah-sing, a former strategist with a technology conglomerate, explained that salvation will not come with words or even technology, but with the small actions of many people.

He added that while big projects have their place, the micro remains essential and without the daily action of ordinary citizens striving to eat more vegetables and less resource consuming meat, growing a few pot plants at home and recycling materials, the large scale will not succeed.

As the blustery wind chilled the 100 or so people gathered at the Peak, Christine Loh Kung-wai, the acting secretary for the environment; Vivian Taam Wong, the chairperson of Friends of the Earth in Hong Kong; Chan Chun-tak, from the Ecology Ministry of the Anglican Church; and Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing gave short reflections on Praise Be.

Organised by the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, the Council for the Laity and the Justice and Peace Commission, and supported by 11 socially active Church organisations in the diocese, the gathering heard a group of children sing that we are many drops making one ocean and without the involvement of each individual nothing gathers momentum.

The many young people at the launch distributed Angel Stickers, coloured coded into various activities that can contribute to protecting the environment.

One encouraged eating more vegetables and less meat, one being careful with water usage, one prompted control of the desire to overconsume and one to pray.

Ngai described all these activities as important contributions on a micro level that when put together make a significant impact on our environment.

In a simple liturgy and blessing ceremony, Bishop Ha was presented with a bowl of water, a box of soil, seeds and a pot plant, which he blessed and offered to God, symbolising the gift of nature in God’s creation and the work of human hands in the nourishing and tilling, and the feeding and sustaining.


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