– Pope Francis, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home”
2016 isn’t even over and its record-breaking temperatures since January have surpassed those of 2015, which was the hottest year on record. The scientists at NASA report that 2016 is the hottest year on record since scientists began keeping temperature records in the 19th century. Global warming, the rising atmospheric temperatures which is the result of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, are responsible for increasingly severe changes in the climate and in the natural environment. This includes but is not limited to droughts and changes (for the worse) in the frequency and intensity of storms and rising sea levels brought on by the melting of the polar icecaps in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Around the world thousands of species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction because they are unable to adapt to the impact of relentlessly rising global temperatures or to the impact of the destruction, directly or indirectly, of the ecosystems upon which their survival depends.
Nor should we overlook how this affects the people with whom we share this beautiful planet. It is the poorest, in the developing world, who are most vulnerable (for now) to the heat, drought, flooding and rising sea levels caused by global warming and climate change.
The present ecological crisis, with its impacts on the environment and the poor, is not only a scientific, political or economic issue but a profoundly spiritual and moral one. It is for this reason that various religious and spiritual communities and their leaders have spoken out strongly on the seriousness of the crisis and the urgency of acting quickly to reduce and eventually eliminate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
A year ago, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, published an encyclical letter, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” in advance of the Paris Climate Conference, which was held in December 2015. In his letter he called for what he termed, “ecological conversion,” noting that “living out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue”(LS 216).
For men and women of all faiths and spiritual practice, prayer and reflection are the essential grounding for growing in virtue and working together for the common good. Last year Pope Francis and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I invited religious believers to come together on Sept. 1 for a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
In response to this call, the local chapter of Alaska Interfaith Power and Light (an interfaith group working to promote awareness and action around the issues of global warming and climate change) is sponsoring an interfaith prayer service at Northern Light United Church, 7-8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1.
In addition, also for the World Day of Prayer, there will be a Holy Hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 1.
All are invited and all are welcome!
• Deacon Charles Rohrbacher serves at the Cathedral of the Nativity and the Diocese of Juneau.
(Photo by Craig Johring, Yakutat, AK)