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Earth Day: Christians offer hope, take action on creation care

(Vatican Radio) As the world marks Earth Day, April 22, the director of the national, ecumenical Green Church program in Canada says Christians have particular gifts to offer the environmental movement, namely hope, love and faith.

“I think that Christians everywhere are seeing that the environmental crisis needs an answer, and not only from schools and industries and citizens, it needs it from Christians and the Church, and we have our own answer to give,” said Norman Lévesque.

“Everywhere there are environmental values that come from the environmental movement. … But the Church will also add hope (to) this environmental crisis so we can help solve it,” he continued.

“It’s not alarmist. We’re going to bring hope. We’re going to bring love for creation… And finally, with hope and love, there’s also faith. We need to have faith in God that he can give us the tools we need to change.”

Green Church, which began in 2006, includes more than 40 member church communities and operates out of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal, offers resources to churches and faith communities to care for God’s creation.

The program has three pillars, explained Lévesque: action, awareness and spirituality. It offers tools for churches to take action in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, ethical eating, water conservation, recycling and waste reduction. It helps churches raise awareness about creation care through education campaigns and tips for church bulletins.

It also offers spiritual resources, including prayers, information for catechesis, biblical references, and the stories of saints who can serve as models in creation care. Lévesque made reference to the social doctrine of the Church and said he has found 50 saints that lived close to creation. And the biblical basis for sustainable development, he offered as an example, can be found in Genesis 2.

While looking forward to Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on the environment, Lévesque pointed to Benedict XVI’s 2010 World Day of Peace message as a useful resource, which he said echoes John Paul II’s World Day of Peace message 20 years earlier.

Lévesque noted that Pope John Paul II first called the Church to an “ecological conversion” in 2001, “so that we are aware that creation itself is loved by God and it’s not just a resource of stuff that we’re supposed to exploit.

“Every creature has come to be because of God’s love, and if we’re made in God’s image and we’re co-creators, well then, we’re also called to love our… environment as God loves it,” Lévesque continued.

Lévesque said he has seen an important shift in the Church in Canada regarding creation care in the past five years. In former years, bishops often would simply offer words of encouragement when he would speak about his program.

“Today, we’re actually talking about recognizing this as a ministry, so creation care ministry in the Church,” he said. “I’m a witness to different bishops who are actually giving pastoral mandates and nominating people to this job. So it’s quite amazing that in the Church we’re actually recognizing this as a ministry. It’s pastoral care; it’s creation care.”

Other programs similar to Green Church exist worldwide, he said, mentioning Eco-congregations and the European Environmental Network in Europe, and Earth Ministries and Green Faith in the United States.

Listen to the full interview with Norman Lévesque: RealAudioMP3
Report and interview by Laura Ieraci