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Diocese launches climate action plan at critical time

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Catholic Diocese has launched a sweeping action plan that calls for the region’s families, parishes, schools, and other organizations to take concrete steps to urgently care for creation.

The plan supports the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, the Catholic Church’s unprecedented, seven-year strategy for everyone to work together to respond to devastating climate change and the plight of the poor. The Church envisions small, local efforts, sustained over time, as making a big impact on the environment and society.

The Vatican plans to officially launch the platform on Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment and animals.

The diocesan action plan was developed by the core committee of the Creation Care Ministry, led by Father Emmet Farrell. The ministry, housed in the Office for Life, Peace and Justice, is organizing a bilingual Mass on Oct. 2 at St. Rita’s Church at 10 a.m. to celebrate the feast day.

In September, the ministry will begin a campaign that invites individuals, parishes and schools to plant trees, particularly in low-income neighborhoods where a dearth of them contributes to a poor quality of life.

The diocese’s 55-page action plan begins with a brief review of Pope Francis’ monumental encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” The letter casts the vital mission of the Gospel within the concept of human ecology, “which simultaneously answers the call of the earth in its suffering with the cry of the poor,” said Bishop Robert McElroy in his introduction.

“We, as the Catholic community of San Diego and Imperial counties, must adopt a radical new commitment to such goals if we, as a planet, are to survive meaningfully and hand-on a life-giving existence to the coming generations,” said Bishop McElroy, a national and international faith leader on this issue.

The Creation Care Ministry invites parishes and schools to form teams to carry out concrete steps to care for the environment and for their vulnerable neighbors. Ministry team members provide them with information and resources in English and Spanish to get started. Teams at several parishes and schools have been working for years on this front, carrying out a variety of projects.

The care ministry wants to combine these efforts with public ones at the municipal, county and state level to create meaningful impact. For instance, the ministry supports the City of San Diego’s goal to reach 100-percent renewable energy and a 50-percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2035.

The action plan includes a section on Catholic teaching and science that lays out the foundation for people of faith to act. And it outlines a series of specific steps that can be taken, dividing them in three levels, “easy or personal,” “moderate or parish” and “advanced or society.” The ministry plans recognize these actions by awarding achievement certificates.

Nearly 100 percent of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is real, and its consequences are grave. For people of faith, however, there are other reasons to act urgently to care for creation.

“This is a moral and spiritual issue because we are stewards of the earth,” said Father Farrell, the ministry’s leader. “We’re not doing a good job of protecting it. There are so many things we can do.”

Read the diocese’s Action Plan on this webpage, which carries information and contacts of the Creation Care Ministry.

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