ROME — On Earth Day Catholics from across the world will be celebrating the environment as a Christian Act of Mercy from April 22-23.
The #Mercy2Earth Weekend is being organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) to mark the fact Earth Day (April 22) and Divine Mercy Sunday (April 23) are happening on the same weekend.
Tomás Insua, the executive director of the GCCM, told Crux “those two themes, Earth and Mercy, are the essence of Pope Francis’s most important ecology statement in the post-Laudato si’ era.”
That statement is Francis’s Message for the 2016 World Day of Prayer for Creation, which had the theme “Show Mercy to our Common Home.”
“The key novelty from that this papal message was that it enshrined ‘care for our common home’ as an official act of mercy for Catholics to perform, being added to the traditional list of 7 acts of mercy,” Insua said in an email exchange.
Events are being organized all around the world, from a day of prayer and action out in nature run by Capuchins in Ecuador, to a feeding program to support vulnerable communities in the Philippines.
In the United States, preparatory meetings are being held for Catholic involvement in the April 29 People’s Climate March taking place in Washington, D.C., and other cities around the country.
Several places are hosting events to study Laudato si’, the 2015 papal encyclical on ecological issues which has been a foundation of Vatican efforts to protect the environment in the current pontificate.
Insua told Crux the encyclical was “transformative” for the Church, saying it “built on top of the teachings of previous popes to enshrine creation care as a key issue for Catholics.”
He noted its influence on the international level, calling it “a gigantic contribution” to United Nations climate negotiations and crediting it for increasing the level of ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement reached in 2016.
“Both Catholics and non-Catholics are certainly listening to Pope Francis’s eco-message,” Insua said, “although of course in the U.S. there are some politicians and lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry that are determined to ignore scientists and public opinion, advancing an extremely harmful pro-fossil fuel agenda that contradicts the Laudato si’ message.”
The #Mercy2Earth Weekend will also coincide with the March for Science, when on April 22 over 500 cities will host rallies in support of science issues. Climate researchers are some of the main backers of the event.
“Scientists are shouting at humanity, warning us that we’re headed to a precipice,” Insua said, “so it’s terrifying that some people, including many in the Trump administration, are denying the scientific facts and deepening our reliance on dangerous fossil fuels.”
The GCCM has come up with an examination of conscience – based on that developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola – for people to use to deepen their commitment to protecting the environment.
The process involves six steps: Resting in the presence of God, giving thanks for God’s creation and creatures, reflecting on the ways you have heard “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” asking forgiveness for the ways you’ve fallen short in caring for God’s creation and creatures, making amends by committing to concrete ways to show mercy to creation and your neighbors, and closing in prayer.
The organization’s website says this is as a way to deepen a vocation as “protector of God’s handiwork” or could be used before going to the sacrament of confession.
Insua said more and more Catholics are seeing caring for creation as a moral issue.
“Most of the credit should be granted to the Laudato si’ encyclical, as it was a game-changer that helped raise awareness about the eco-teachings of previous popes with the added value of Pope Francis’s own contributions,” he told Crux.
“Of course there is a lot more education and awareness-raising to happen, but we are on the good track,” he said.