Manila's “Season of Creation” Opens Strong

Manila’s Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle opened the “Season of Creation” on September 1st with a Mass celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Parañaque City. In it, he offered some of the most impassioned environmental words to date by a Prince of the Church.

Indeed, from the archbishop to the archdiocese’s environmental minister Lou Arsenio, to lay faithful, religious, and clerics taking part in the Season, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is making a commanding statement not just in its own nation but very far beyond its borders.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer chronicled the archbishop’s homily, which stressed the Catholic role in environmental appreciation and protection.

“God’s creations should be given importance and not taken for granted,” he said.

“We should be thankful for the sunrise, sunset, flowers, grass and rivers, among others.” He added that “[s]adly, for some people they seem to be ordinary and go unnoticed.”

He said that Filipino Catholics “should be awed and celebrate all creations of God.” Like Pope Francis and his predecessors, the archbishop called for changes in lifestyles so that humanity lives in accord with the laws of nature.

The archbishop then stressed that both the government and business must “push for the right kind of development and progress.”

“We have no intention of stopping development, but development projects should be those that are not against God’s wishes… we cannot call projects converting rivers to roads ‘development projects.’”

Those familiar with the writings of St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, will hear echoes of the term “integral human development” within Archbishop Tagle’s criticism of the word “development” related to human building activity.

Arsenio, the archdiocesan ecology minister, echoed her archbishop’s sentiments in a recent post on the archdiocese's ecology Facebook page.

[Our] renewable resources are under threat of depletion and destruction due to the exploitation by insensitive and unscrupulous businesses and government agencies. As Christians, we are called to correct one another even if this sometimes calls for heroism, after all, that is what it means to be a Christian. Let us therefore appreciate and thank God for the gift of the renewable sources of energy. Let us also pray that each of us will recognize the urgent need to conserve and preserve these resources.

The month-long Season of Creation ends on October 4th—the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. As stated in advance material, the Season has five chief goals:

  1. Heighten public awareness on the situation of the environment
  2. Make people understand and imbibe Creation Spirituality
  3. Show how all creations are interdependent and interrelated
  4. Make Christians recognize and practice their being stewards of God’s creation
  5. Promote respect for and care of God’s creation.

Since it opened, the Season of Creation has brought to the Archdiocese of Manila and surrounding dioceses a wide range of ecological opportunities for area Catholics and their neighbors.

In a letter to his diocese in advance of the Season, Archbishop Tagle said that “[i]n 1988 the bishops asked, ‘What is happening to our beautiful land?’ Through our observance of the Season of Creation, let us preserve the beauty of our land and the sacredness of God’s creation, a mirror of God’s goodness and love for us.”

Notably, the archbishop and his brother bishops have not simply raised these questions for others to answer. They have also been vocal in the public square.

Most recently, Archbishop Tagle has taken issue with the proposed Manila Bay reclamation project, a major residential and commercial development in the coastal areas of Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Cavite. Filipino bishops have also criticized large-scale mining in the Sierra Madre.

Stay tuned for more as the Season of Creation unfolds. For now, may God bless the efforts of all those working in the Philippines to make this and every season one to live as we ought in God’s good creation.

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.