Geelong’s religious response to climate change

A new initiative presents an opportunity to work with others of faith in responding to the climate crisis in the Geelong region.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is a national interfaith network coordinating faith based climate action on a number of fronts. 

To help getting faith-based climate action well and truly underway in Geelong, Peter Martin, the Vicar of the parish at Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale, has taken the initiative to form a Geelong branch of the ARRCC.

The video recording is from The Sustainable Hour on 1 July 2020, where Peter explains that ARRCC Geelong is going to have its inaugural meeting in Zoom on Sunday 5 July 2020 from 6pm to 8pm. It will be a meeting where attendees will get to know one another and to see who is interested in working on which campaigns together.

If you’d like to join, you can contact Peter Martin either by email or on 0438 231 118.
This is the zoom link for the meeting.

ARRCC’s national Community Organiser Tejopala Rawls will be at the meeting.

A note from Tejopala:

What ARRCC is planning
Here is a quick overview of what ARRCC is planning for the next year or so.

At the meeting on 5 July 2020 we’re keen to find out if you would be up for asking a few people from your congregation to get involved with one or more of these things.  

There will also be meetings of a similar kind held in a number of other cities across Australia, so you will be part of a movement. So if people like you put your hand up for just one of these things each that would be massive.  

Moving the money
Each one of us can make sure that money is being used in line with our ethical values. We can do this with our own money by putting pressure on our bank or super provider to rule out investing in fossil fuels and we can ask others in our faith community to do the same. We can also team up with others in our congregation to ask our faith institutions to do the same thing with their investments. The campaign as a whole would be led by campaigning organisation Market Forces but we would add our credibility as people and communities of faith. 

A major public moment
We have exciting ideas for showing that people of faith care deeply about the climate crisis. Imagine places of worship all over the country ringing their bells on the same day to get this message across. Or putting up public signs saying the same thing. All we need to do is hitch this to a major public moment when everyone will be talking about the climate. This might be another online climate strike, if there is one this year. Or it might be the lead-up to the G20 meeting in November when all eyes will be on what the leaders of the world’s largest economies will do with their economic recovery money. Such a moment will come this year. We just need to choose our time well and be ready for it. 

Asking Contractors not to work with Adani
There is one part of the campaign to stop the Adani mine that is firing on all cylinders right now. People all over the country are asking key companies to rule out working with the mining giant. It’s working. So far more than 60 companies have done so including major banks, insurers and rail companies. There are opportunities coming up to put pressure on both Westpac and CommBank not to refinance the Abbot Point port. Even a few people of faith protesting (and maybe praying, singing or meditating) outside a local bank branch could be pretty awkward for them. Again, the over campaign would be led by Market Forces and we would add our credibility as people and communities of faith. 

A Green recovery
At the moment the federal government is committing billions of dollars to an economic recovery from the pandemic. Their current plan is to spend much of it on huge new gas projects when there is plenty of evidence that investing in renewable energy provides more jobs. Many in the business community are joining with environmental organisations saying they want a green recovery instead. We can speak up on this and make sure our elected leaders know that we want better.  

How we go about it
Sometimes people can feel that they’re the only one in their congregation who ‘gets it’ when it comes to the climate. If that’s you, there is an answer. ARRCC recently held a multi faith service that we organised in support of the climate strike on 15 May 2019. We asked people to sign up online to ask people from their congregation to come to this event. More than 70 people from across Australia who undertook to ask people from their congregation to come to this event. We were delighted that so many people helped to organise in this way, even if it involved just asking one or two friends to come along. The net result was a highly successful multi faith service with around 350 people there. When people ask even one or two others in their congregation to take action, however small, and when we all do that together with a clear plan, that has a very big effect.

Why not come along and find out what you can do to help make this happen?
~ Tejopala

“Our limited and self-centered attitudes fulfill neither the needs of the time, nor the potential of which we are capable.”
Dalai Lama

→ Job One for Humanity – 18 September 2020:
Here Are the Surprisingly Aligned Positions on Climate Change and Global Warming from the World’s Major Religions
“Most major world religions have released important statements on the need to end Climate Change and Global Warming. Here they are.”

Operational guidance on how to put Pope Francis’ encyclical letter into practice

All of the Vatican’s dicasteries – its ministries or departments – have worked together to publish practical environmental guidelines that will guide the global Catholic church for years to come.

It is the first time ever that the Vatican has given the entire church operational guidance to put Laudato Si’ into practice.

The document, titled ‘Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years after Laudato Si’,’ contains incisive and challenging proposals for the practical implementation of Pope Francis’ encyclical throughout the church and in the wider world. It highlights good practices that help Catholics accelerate the work towards the complete decarbonisation of society.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States—often referred to as the Vatican’s foreign minister—presented the text along with other panelists at a press conference on 18 June 2020 at the Vatican to a limited number of journalists wearing masks and respecting social-distancing and others following on livestream.

He explained that the 227-page text is the result of work done on the theme of “integral ecology”—a central concept of Pope Francis’s encyclical—by an inter-departmental team of the Holy See that started in 2018 with input from various entities of the Holy See and the Catholic Church worldwide.

Gallagher said it included contributions from the continental conferences of Catholic bishops, as well as the international unions of men and women superiors generals and networks of non-governmental organisations.

“These guidelines are an opportunity to understand where the Vatican and all it serves are headed over the next few years: urgent, coordinated, spirit-filled action for our common home,” writes Tomás Insua from the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

→ America Magazine – 18 June 2020:
In a new book, the Vatican presses practical implications of ‘Laudato Si’

Vatican News:

Vatican document on integral ecology:
Safeguarding Creation is everyone’s responsibility

Several Vatican Dicasteries team up to release a document entitled “Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: five years after Laudato Si’ ”, which offers a guide to all Christians on how to maintain a healthy relationship with Creation.

The text was written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it highlights the main message of Laudato Sí: Everything is connected; each particular crisis forms part of a single, complex socio-environmental crisis that requires a true ecological conversion.

→ Continue reading on

→ BBC Sounds – 20 December 2020:
Are Catholics ignoring the Pope on climate change?
The Laudato Si’ Animators program is one of the Vatican’s “good practices.” 
If you are a catholic who wants to get engaged, you can apply to become a Laudato Si’ Animator here

→ National Catholic Reporter – 22 April 2021:
Now playing: Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical set to music

“Linda Chase has written an oratorio based on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home. “I am interpreting Laudato Si’ as a call to action through music,” she says.”

“Pope Francis has now called for the Church to observe a year of engagement with the encyclical, promoting its teachings and embedding its call in our daily lives. On present indications, the leadership of the Catholic Church in Australia still has a long way to go to make that happen.”
Neil Ormerod is a widely published theologian and a Fellow of the Australian Catholic Theological Association. He is a retired Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University.

Laudato Si’ negleted by Australian Catholic leaders

“The theme that runs through the document is that “everything is interconnected”: our relationships to God, to one another, and to the environment around us. The two words that most struck me when I first read it were “urgent” and “crisis,” with Pope Francis telling his readers, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”

But it was also remarkable for the little things one notices as a theologian: his direct quoting of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew; his multiple references to national episcopal conference documents (including Australia and New Zealand); a footnote on a Sufi mystic, included at the direction of the pope himself; and the use of inclusive language in the official Vatican English translation.

To mark the occasion of its fifth anniversary, the Vatican declared 16-23 May 2020 to be “Laudato Si’ Week,” and asked Catholic everywhere to join “in solidarity for a more just and sustainable future.” Pushing things further, Pope Francis has called for a year-long process of engagement with the message of the encyclical, issuing a special prayer for the faithful. But while the Vatican is urging us to move forward, we should also pause to look back to examine what level of uptake the encyclical has had in the Australian Catholic Church. Has the Church taken the document into its heart? Or is it destined to join the largely neglected body of Catholic Social Teaching, often referred to as the Church’s best kept secret?”
~ Neil Ormerod, theologian and a Fellow of the Australian Catholic Theological Association

→ ABC – 16 July 2020:
Has the Australian Catholic Church heeded the call of Laudato Si’?

Ecological convertion – new book of rituals

A new YouTube-video with Margie Abbott explaining how to use her ritual book

Geelong-based Margie Abbott has written her fourth book about the sacred in everything – in all that is.

→ Read and hear more about Margie Abbott’s book of rituals here

Theology and ecology

The following are excerpts from a book review by Sean McDonagh, a Columban missionary priest, of Dermot A. Lane’s new book, ‘Theology and Ecology in Dialogue: The Wisdom of Laudato Si’’. The book was published in Dublin, Ireland, by Messenger Publications in 2020. ISBN 978 1 78812 1941.

“Humans are related to everything existing in our universe at present, and are connected with everything that has existed going back to the birth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. For example, if the carbon atom had not been created in supernova explosions which took place maybe ten billion years ago, life would not have emerged on earth more than six billion years later and there would be no humans. And since then, the mesmerising multitude of species would not have emerged without the dynamism of evolution. (…)

Biologists tell us that we are living in the sixth largest extinction of life since life began 3.8 billion years ago. The last time such a catastrophe took place on earth was 65 million years ago when the impact of an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and countless other creatures.

This time the prime cause of extinction globally is human activity. On another front, our western culture and our Christian faith has very little respect for the oceans. Though 70 percent of the planet’s surface is covered by the sea, we know more about the surface of Mars and the Moon than we know about the oceans. Without the oceans our planet would be as inhospitable as Mars: no meadows, no forests, no birds, no animals and no humans.

Life began in the oceans 3.8 billion years ago. It evolved and was nurtured there for more than 3 billion years before it began to colonise the land. When life came ashore almost 500 million years ago, it brought water with it so that water makes up more than 70 % of all living beings, including human beings. Pressure on the oceans comes from many sources, including industrial pollution, destructive fishing methods, acidification of the water from burning fossil fuels and the ubiquitous plastic waste.”
~ Page 309-310

“If we were challenged at each Eucharist prayer to share the earth with humans and with other species in the earth community we would have to face the stark reality that we are very poor at it. Every ecosystem on our planet has been colonised by humans for our benefit only. We have very little concern for the well-being of the millions of species who share this planet with us and, of course, we have given them no basic rights.”

Pope Francis states in the Encyclical that a domineering approach to nature is not “a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church” (67) in the 21st century. This is new teaching and we should recognise it as such, notes Sean McDonagh.

“The Catholic Churches have been meagre and patchy in responding to the destruction of our world. So, it is wonderful to see a competent theologian, in dialogue with other theologians, investigating both our biblical sources and modern science to fashion a new vision of our Christian faith that takes the ‘sign of times’ more seriously. It also outlines a new way of acting where Christians begin to listen to the cry of the poor and the earth. And finally, it points in the direction of a new liturgy, where all join together in praising God for the wonders of creation. If we fail in this vital task, in the words of Pope Francis, the earth, our mother will become more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

→ Excerpts from The Furrow, May 2020

On the Journey for Care of the Common Home

As new environmental guidance from the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, the Vatican published a 226-page document in June 2020 titled “On the Journey for Care of the Common Home”. So far the document only exist in Italian language.

It includes a call to divest financially from the fossil fuel industry, exemplifies the positive and far-reaching role that faith organisations can play in the global effort to lower emissions and usher in an era of spiritual as well as planetary rebirth.

→ Media release – 18 June 2020:
Vatican issues sweeping new environmental guidelines
Long-term vision for environmental action emphasizes urgency, global coordination

The new treatise serves as a practical guide to help Catholics implement the Pope’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ which called on church followers to recognise climate action as a duty of the faithful and urge people throughout the world to treat Earth “like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”

→ Common Dreams – 18 June 2020:
New Vatican Document Urges Fossil Fuel Divestment to Serve Planet and the Common Good
“‘The Vatican’s call for divestment is a breath of hope in times when faith is more needed than ever. It is a powerful statement that attempting to profit off the destruction of the planet is plainly and simply immoral and unethical,’ said co-founder Bill McKibben.”

The Vatican’s peace and justice office is inviting Catholic communities across the world to join a grassroots movement to gradually work toward “total sustainability” in the coming decade, a path that would include carbon neutrality, simpler lifestyles and divestment from fossil fuels.

→ EarthBeat – 17 May 2020:
Vatican office invites church on journey to ‘total sustainability’ in next decade
“Plan for yearlong Laudato Si’ celebration touts action platform toward carbon neutrality, fossil fuel divestment.”

→ EarthBeat – 26 June 2020:
What it will take to do the work of Laudato Si’: stewardship for all, by all
“I find myself reading Laudato Si’ in a way that is beyond religion. Pope Francis speaks to the common themes that unite all humanity. His words appear driven not only by scripture but by good and decent common sense.”

Join EarthBeat on an exploration of Laudato Si’ through a social, political and spiritual lens, leading readers through an informal study of the call to care for our common home, five years on: DIGGING INTO LAUDATO SI’

Samantha Panchèvre has translated passages from the encyclical and linked action ideas to make them relevant to our everyday lives. On this page is a recap of all the actions:

→ EarthBeat – 3 July 2020:
How to care for our common home


On 18 June 2020, the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines. The guidelines frame investing in fossil fuels as an ethical choice, on par with other significant ethical choices. The guidelines suggest that Catholic institutions’ ethical commitments should lead to “avoiding supporting companies that harm human or social ecology (for example, abortion and weapons) and environmental ecology (for example, fossil fuels).”

190 Catholic institutions worldwide have already divested from fossil fuels. Follow the Vatican guidelines, join other Catholic institutions and commit your institution to divest from fossil fuels.

→ Global Catholic Climate Movement:
Learn how to divest

→ Al Jazeera – 13 August 2020:
What does Islam say about climate change and climate action?
“Muslims already have an environmentalist framework to follow. It is set in Islam.”