CATHOLICS living in southeast Queensland can expect a major overhaul of church operations with the Archdiocese of Brisbane embarking on a seven-year ‘ecological conversion’ plan.
Brisbane Laudato Si Action Plan – one of the first documents of its kind – sets an agenda for Church agencies, schools, parishes and families to fight climate change, reduce fossil fuel investments, adopt lifestyles sustainability and promote environmental education.
The plan calls on the 750,000 Catholics in South East Queensland to embrace the teachings set out by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, on the care of our common home.
“He (Pope Francis) has presented a sobering picture of the many ecological and social challenges we face,” said Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge.
“In recent years the truthfulness of what he wrote has become apparent to all of us.
“Bushfires and flooding have ravaged south-east Queensland and other parts of Australia.
“This plan will help us all change the way we see the world around us and the way we act.”
In the plan, one of the far-reaching actions commits the Archdiocese of Brisbane to develop a transport strategy to reduce fossil fuel consumption in its fleet; encourage the use of public transport, bicycles and walking by employees and Catholics across the Archdiocese whenever possible; and minimize its contribution to carbon pollution via air travel.
Another action calls on the archdiocese to review its banking, insurance, pension and other forms of investment, with a view to reducing dependence on fossil fuel investments.
Yet another action calls for the planting of native trees and vegetation on all properties in the Archdiocese.
“We’ve been working on this for a few years… big changes are already happening, but this heralds the possibility of even bigger changes,” said Peter Arndt, chief executive of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Most Catholic schools in southeast Queensland are already powered entirely by renewable energy, not fossil fuels.
Catholic agencies have yet to switch to electric vehicles or take many other initiatives outlined in the new plan.
Mr Arndt said church officials had collected baseline data on current practices so changes towards “ecological conversion” could progress quickly.
“It’s important that people at headquarters practice what they preach to begin with,” he said.
“There are difficult decisions to be made in the various diocesan agencies regarding changes that will be very different from what is happening now.
“I hope this will inspire Catholics in parishes and schools to do the same.”
In response to the “cry of the poor”, the Laudato Si plan calls for the mobilization of First Nations expertise in parishes, schools and organizations.
It would begin with “spinning circles” so that Catholics could “hear and understand more clearly the culture and spirituality of First Nations people and what they recommend to heal the country and its people.”
Under this plan, ecological spirituality would be promoted. There would be opportunities for church and school groups to take contemplative nature walks led by First Nations people, so that the groups could experience “walking the land”.
A process of “listening in depth” to Pacific Islanders and their experience of ecological and cultural issues is also advocated in the document.
“Torres Strait Islanders and peoples across the Pacific plead for urgent action to save them from the impacts of climate change, including the threat of flooding to their homes, gardens and cemeteries,” Bishop said. Colleridge.
“Indigenous peoples from different parts of this country are expressing concern and even outrage at the threat that mining activity poses to their traditional lands and culture.
“Pacific island nations are expressing similar concerns about the effects of mining operations on their land and in the sea itself. COVID-19 has also left its own trail of devastation here and across the planet.
“The situation is critical and the Church has a unique role to play in turning the tide.”
Another of the plan’s goals calls for community resilience and empowerment. Through parishes, schools and agencies, Catholics will be encouraged to participate in Clean Up Australia Day events.
“The paper speaks to the growing amount of small piles around the world as a significant environmental challenge,” Arndt said.
“And certainly, cleanups remind us of the amount of waste we produce, and the challenge is not just to pick up the trash but to reduce our waste.
“That’s an important contribution we can make – by reducing waste, we reduce greenhouse gases. When we reduce food waste that goes to landfill, for example.
“We don’t run parishes or schools or individual Catholics – without telling them they have to do this or that – but we provide resources and opportunities to respond to the challenges we face.
The plan calls for an overhaul of an existing Laudato Si’ Archdiocese website so that it provides a platform for the best Laudato Si’ information and resources, and opportunities for environmental action at home, the parish, schools, office and community.
The Brisbane plan is the first diocesan plan to appear on the Laudato Si’ Action Platforman initiative of the Vatican Dicastery for the promotion of integral human development.