Philippine church leaders urged Filipino Catholics to step up efforts to hold big corporations and governments accountable for “ecological sins” during the Lenten season.
During an Ash Wednesday gathering of environmental activists in Manila, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the faithful need to see “ecological sin as the rupture of relationships.”
“This sin has triple layers, against God, human beings, and the rest of creation,” the prelate said in his keynote speech at the general assembly of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc., a network of civil society groups and faith-based institutions.
The bishop proposed a “paradigm shift” to stem ecological disasters linked to climate change, emphasizing equitable development practices over technical goal-posts used by multilateral and international groups.
“We have a need for a bold cultural revolution,” said Bishop Alminaza, adding that the Lenten season should prompt Christians to ponder how they have abused or neglected God’s task to care for the earth.
“We were made stewards, but we have abused nature, raped, and exploited her,” said the bishop.
Citing Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical Laudato si, Bishop Alminaza said clergy and religious groups need “to rediscover a theological vision of the natural world” so that the faithful understand that the struggle for the environment is part of the “Good News.”
“Universal communion is not limited to human beings,” he said. “We were tasked as stewards of the earth and must include all creation in this communion,” added the bishop.
Bishop Alminaza, a critic of the extraction and use of coal, said the dominant technocratic paradigm is a hallmark of self-centeredness, preventing urgent, if painful, reforms.
He said it is in contrast to Pope Francis’ teachings of nurturing “integral links.”
People need to transcend orthodox worldviews of development by embracing delays that allow those on the margins to catch up with dominant groups, he said.
The bishop said that while the rich may be guilty of harming the environment, he reminded environmental activists to avoid the pitfalls of “self-referential” attitudes.
“Service is not about us. It is about the people who need help,” he said. “It is important to shift from ‘I’ to ‘we,'” he told the gathering of activists. “Our standard for responding should always be solidarity with the victims.”
He said the ecological process is not just a physical problem but a deeply moral one. He urged Christians to expand the web of compassion and empathy beyond their immediate environment.
“Many ask, ‘if I stop to help, what will happen to me,'” he pointed out. “Let us be like the Good Samaritan who asked, ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”