MUMBAI, India – A Lenten campaign is bringing together two churches that at first glance might seem worlds apart.
The Church in Germany is one of the wealthiest churches in the world, and at the heart of Europe; the Church in India is one of the poorest and exists at what Pope Francis calls “the peripheries.”
This Lent, Caritas India and Misereor – the German bishops’ international development agency – are joining together to bring awareness to climate change, with the theme “Have you Changed the World Today?”
“We are going around schools and parishes meeting children and people talking about India and the need to change our lifestyles as per the Laudato si’ of Pope Francis,” Father Frederick D’Souza, the executive director of Caritas India, told Crux.
Laudato si’, published in 2015, calls climate change “a global problem with grave implications,” adding that “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”
“In India, Misereor’s partners work to ensure a good life, in particular for those who are forced to live on the fringes of society,” said Franz Gulde, Misereor’s Head of Development Education and Pastoral Work.
“In the country, they are looking for solutions to the tangible effects of climate change. By taking suitable environmental protection measures, they preserve the quality of soil and water resources in their communities, thereby ensuring greater balance in the ecosystem,” he said on the organization’s website.
“In the city, the people in the slums set up learning houses for children and training courses for women, so that the children get a basic education and women can earn a living. The work to strengthen the rights of both unskilled and skilled workers helps people towards a life of dignity,” Gulde said.
Caritas India and Misereor have worked together in India for over 50 years, but this is their first joint campaign.
“The successful organizing of a joint Lenten Campaign this year has helped in taking forward the mutually benefiting collaboration,” D’Souza said.
The Lenten campaign seeks to sensitize the Church communities of Germany and India on the pertinent issues of environmental degradation, global warming and climate change which are affecting both the countries in varying intensities.
The campaign is focused on a number of remedial measures and course correction to be adopted as pointed actions to be taken up by the Church communities in these two countries in the upcoming months and years.
Included among the concrete steps being proposed during the Lenten campaign are:
- Using water sparingly
- Using electricity only as needed
- Taking public transport
- Going vegan as much as possible
- Reducing flight journeys
D’Souza inaugurated the campaign for German youth at a Mass on Feb. 17 in Munich, preaching on how the youth in India and Germany can work together to bring about the social transformation called for in Laudato si, and appealed to the young people to be responsible members of the Church upholding the value of solidarity.
The Indian priest told Crux that Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and president of Germany’s bishops’ conference, told him “the Church in Germany is very happy to work in India, and Germany is committed to work for the poor in India.”
A day after the Mass in Germany, another liturgy took place in New Delhi, India.
Archbishop Anil Couto, the Archbishop of Delhi presided over Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral and officially rolled out the Lenten Campaign in the country.
D’Souza said working on the campaign has helped in creating a lot of goodwill and mutual learning for both the countries which in turn will further broaden pastoral cooperation development engagement between the Church in India and the Church in Germany.
Gulde points out that Francis says in Laudato si’ that all over the world, the whole human family should be brought together to seek a sustainable and integral development, and no one should be left behind in the process.
“To this end, Misereor invites people in Germany and beyond to take steps towards ensuring real quality of life at a global level,” he said.
“Take the initiative – enter into a dialogue about how the Lenten Campaign in India and Germany can make our fasting, our sacrifice result in a better quality of life for many people. Your good ideas can help change the world and make it a more just place for all,” Gulde said.