Laudato Si’ is an encyclical of Pope Francis published in May 2015. It focuses on the care for the natural environment and all people, as well as broader questions of the relationship between God, humans, and the Earth. It is basically about the care for our common home and calls for an inclusive dialogue on the impact of environmental challenges, as a clarion call for an ‘integral ecology’ that chats a new path of relating with creation with utmost dignity, respect and care. Various discussions have been held on this encyclical across the world and the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta is not left out as the Bishop - Most Rev. Dr. Peter Odetoyinbo recently organized a seminar for the Priests, Religious, and Laity of the Diocese on Friday 5th May, 2023 at the Divine Mercy Pastoral Centre, Agbamaya, Obada-Oko, Abeokuta on the care for our environment.
The seminar was titled “the contribution of the Catholic Clergy to caring for creation” premised on the encyclical of Pope Francis (Laudato Si’). The seminar was facilitated by Miss Agatha Abamhekhelu Ikhumetse, an erudite scholar in Environmental Microbiology and a member of the Laudato Si’ movement; a group that advocates for care for the natural environment and all people (inspiring the Catholic communities to care for our common home and achieve climate & ecological justice). Very Rev. Fr. Peter Abumhenre Egbe (Ph.D.), Head of Department (H.O.D.) of Philosophy at St. Albert the Great Major Seminary, Idowu Offoron, who recently published a book on priestly ministry and respect for integrity of creation was also in attendance to help facilitate the seminar while the Vicar General - Very Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Abiodun Oriyomi moderated the lecture.
The seminar was in two sessions: The first session as presented by Miss Agatha Abamhekhelu Ikhumetse was tilted, “The contribution of the catholic clergy to caring for creation” which challenged the Clergy to protect our common home and tackle ecological crisis through an interior conversion - a call to see, judge and act in the protection of our environment. The speaker challenged everyone to develop a loving awareness of this home we share together. She highlighted the ecological crises confronting the ecosystem such as greenhouse effect, global warming, climate change primarily caused by human activities and the need to urgently reduce its impacts and progression. The causes of climate change were identified as burning of fossil fuels (coal, crude oil and natural gas); an example is the illegal refining of crude oil and continuous gas flaring, deforestation and logging, bush burning, improper waste disposal (e.g., rubbish dumps which often emit Methane Gas), harmful to humans and animals.
The encyclical identified climate change as a moral issue and called for corresponding actions particularly by the scientific and religious communities to engage in an intense dialogue to benefit humanity and the protection of our environment.The impact of climate change on our environment was also examined as loss of biodiversity, global rise in earth’s temperature, wildfires, change in the seasonality of weather patterns thus challenging plant survival, severe drought, ocean acidity that can reduce the size and abundance of aquatic animals, rise in sea level leading to flooding, impact on health, water and air pollution, food insecurity and malnutrition.
Particular reference was made to the role of the Church in fundamentally shaping human cultural and ethical values as far as environmental protection is concerned. The Paris Agreement where about 196 countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Parish, France on 12th December, 2015, made their commitment to keep the rise in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and ideally limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century was a reference point.
The second session was dedicated to the topic, “Recycling as an effective waste management strategy”; a continuation of the lecture on ‘care for our common home’. It was noted that the garbage we generate every day is hazardous to humans and environment hence the need to consider recycling as an important form of environmental protection.
The speaker displayed how improper waste disposal significantly contributes to air pollution thus creating hazard to aquatic life, breeding of pathogenic organisms, blockage of drainage canals and water pollution. Open burning of wastes contributes significantly to air pollution. Disposed plastics into the environment improperly find their way into the aquatic environment and affect sea life. Solid wastes left uncollected in the streets each day block drainage canals and cause river pollution. Wastes serve as breeding ground for pests and other pathogenic organisms as piles of trash become nests for mosquitoes. Indiscriminate wastes disposal leads to the contamination of surface and groundwater supplies. The economic effect is the diversion of funds that can be used for health and education. The speaker advocated a waste management system that helps to control waste generation from collection – storage – transport – processing and disposal. The 3R Approach was suggested (reduce, reuse and recycle).
The recycling process involves: Conversion – Recovering - Turning the old materials into a new version. This will help to recover and use waste products as valuable commodities for energy generation thus reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Items to be recycled include: used glass, bottles, plastics, papers, worn-out tyres, aluminium. Organic and food wastes are composted into plant nutrients for the generation of fertilizers, animal feed, essential oils from dry leaves, biogas etc to mitigate climate change
1. The urgent need for ecological conversion (a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion) and integral ecology (an integrated approach by scientists, policy makers, economists and religious communities to combat the adverse effect of climate change by restoring dignity to the world’s poorest and protecting nature).
2. The Diocese should incorporate ecological education and spirituality into priestly formation in the Seminaries and other Catholic Educational Institutions.
3. The Diocese should design recycling posters and hang them around the Parish and offices.
4. The Diocese should organize educational events to mark the season of creation on the celebration of Laudato Si week (May every year), with activities such as outdoor mass, blessing of animals and engaging institutions to raise awareness on the need to care for our common home.
5. The Diocese should create environmental care association/group in the Parishes where members regularly work together to create awareness on environment protection
6. The Diocese should reduce the use of papers in all Catholic Institutions by avoiding too much printing and substituting it with online platforms.
7. Priests should plant trees/vegetables/flowers around the Parishes.
8. The Diocese should consider the use of renewable energy such as solar power at the Parishes as one way to cut Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions which significantly contribute to climate change.
9. Parishes should set up different bins around the Churches to collect organic wastes, glass, paper, plastics and aluminium.
10. The Diocese should encourage the recycling of empty plastic bottles, papers, tyres, aluminium and buy Eco-friendly products or food sourced from local farms.
11. The Diocese should encourage Parishioners/Church to donate old appliances to charity for reuse and reduce waste, deforestation and bush burning.
12. We learn to conserve water and electricity by turning off home appliances when we leave the house and using energy-saving appliances at home.
13. We practise car sharing e.g., travelling in the same vehicle for journeys rather than travelling in different vehicles or sometimes trekking if the distance is near.
14. We should turn food scraps into rich compost to grow your gardens.
Finally, there is need to slow down greenhouse gases emissions, global warming and reduce effects of climate change by adopting better environmental practices in our daily routines through the ‘reduce’, ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ approach; a change in lifestyle that could bring about clean and green environment that we all desire.
PROGRAMMES INITIATED BY THE DIOCESE AFTER THE SEMINAR
1. Parishes have been instructed to purchase baskets and tag them (Plastic, Paper, Aluminum), for proper waste disposals around the Church premises.
2. Planting of trees and flowers have been initiated around the Church premises.
3. Trees and flowers have been planted at the Bishop’s house, Parishes, Diocesan Institutions and the Divine Mercy Pastoral Centre.
4. A training programme on the encyclical - Laudato Si’ and its direct implications on environmental protection was conducted by the Bishop for the Holy Childhood Association Children on Children’s Day (May 27th 2023) at the Pilgrimage ground in Abeokuta.
5. Posters/Picture Postcards have been designed for pedagogy.