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Mass. bishops urge action on climate change


  • The view from the lookout on the Hairpin Turn in Clarksburg, Massachusetts, overlooking the city of North Adams and the Berkshires. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • The sun sets over Belle Isle Marsh in Winthrop. In their statement on climate change and the environment, the bishops of Massachusetts called on “all Catholics and others of faith” to reflect on the natural beauty of the state, which they called a “gift from God.” Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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BRAINTREE -- The bishops of the four Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts are expressing their shared concern about climate change and commitment to protecting the environment.

In a joint statement issued Sept. 16, entitled "Embracing Laudato Si'," the bishops said, "In our home state of Massachusetts, we are blessed with inspiring natural beauty from the seashore on the east coast to the majestic mountain vistas in the west -- with rolling hills, vibrant communities and rich farmlands throughout the state."

"We, the four Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts, call on all Catholics and others of faith in Massachusetts to reflect on this natural beauty -- this gift from God," they continued.

"To protect and sustain this gift we must act now within our faith institutions and throughout the state to take substantial, meaningful steps to protect our environment and provide relief from the impact of toxic pollution and climate change to protect the health and safety of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable in our society," the bishops said.

The statement, signed by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston, Fall River Bishop Edgar da Cunha, Worcester Bishop Robert McManus, and Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, was released midway through "creation season," which is observed by Christians from Sept. 1 until the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.

James Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, told The Pilot that the four bishops have been speaking out periodically about the environment in their own dioceses. In recent months, he said, there was discussion that it was "probably time for the bishops to do something in unison."

"There's a real effort on behalf of the Catholic Church, across the country and around the world, saying, it's time we all do something to address this issue," Driscoll said.

Throughout the statement, the bishops made reference to "Laudato Si'" Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on care for the environment. In it, Pope Francis acknowledged the scientific consensus of "a disturbing warming of the climatic system" and that people must implement "changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it."

The bishops referred to recent scientific studies that outline the magnitude and dangerous consequences of climate change, such as wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, desertification, and food insecurity.

"We are called to act with hope and to respond to this challenge with urgency in all facets of our life: as individuals making an ecological conversion in our personal lives; as members of our parishes, schools and businesses striving for structural changes that reduce environmental impact; and as citizens participating in political discussions and fulfilling our civic responsibilities. We are asking everyone to examine their personal vocations and opportunities to take action to take better care of our common home," the bishops said.

They acknowledged that change can be hard and seem intimidating, and that each individual's actions will depend on their circumstances.

"We must each find tangible and substantive actions that are within our grasp," the bishops said.

They suggested that families discuss how their lifestyles impact the environment; that parishes incorporate Catholic social teaching about the environment into their liturgy and religious education; and that all levels of government "encourage replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are protected from harm during this transition."

Driscoll said the statement is being distributed widely in the hope spurring action, particularly by elected officials.

"We're hoping that other faiths, other businesses, other leaders in government will pick up the baton, if they already haven't," Driscoll said.

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