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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Bishop urges Church to think global, act local during Lent to beat climate change

The Bishop of Salford has urged churchgoers to think global, act local in an effort to tackle climate change and not just leave the “problem” for governments to remedy.

Bishop John Arnold, who is also Bishop for the Environment, stressed that while governments must play their part in responding to the issue, each individual member of society must also make changes to their lives and begin to repair the damage before matters become irreversible.

“The effects of climate change are not a problem that we can just leave to governments to remedy,” Bishop Arnold said in a pastoral letter read across the Diocese of Salford last weekend.

“They must certainly play their part but Pope Francis tells us that we are all required, every one of us, to make changes to our lives and begin to repair the damage before matters become irreversible,”

Ahead of the Season of Lent, Bishop Arnold challenged parishioners to take action on climate change and to start to think global, act local.

As well as the letter being read in parishes, Bishop Arnold also wrote to the 208 schools of the diocese asking them to make a similar pledge of action.

The bishop said he would like to highlight the “very urgent matter about which I think most of us are at least aware but we have not yet recognised the need to make a practical response”.

He noted that although the UK had been hit by freak weather conditions in the past couple of years, including unprecedented floods, seasonal changes and last year’s Beast from the East, the country had been fortunate not to experience more adverse conditions that other countries had been prone to due to climate change.

“Elsewhere in our world severe and long-term droughts, floods, rising sea-levels and extreme record-breaking temperatures are clear evidence of the damage that our actions and our way of life are inflicting on our world. These have affected millions of people, most often in the poorest countries of the world and people who have done least to damage our environment,” Bishop Arnold said.
He asked parishioners to look beyond their personal lives this Lent, to their role within our wider communities and our world.

“A great deal of difference can be made through a number of small actions in our personal lives.

“To name a few: we can shop more carefully, particularly choosing local produce, so saving the expensive transportation costs and use of fuel. We can cut the temperature on our central heating. We can walk more and use less petrol, using public transport more regularly.

“We can turn lights off in unused rooms, hang washing out to dry rather than using energy-expensive drying machines. We can reduce the waste we make and re-cycle more.

“These may seem almost trivial but they are significant ways where we can make an impact for the good. We show the goodness of our faith by our actions,” he said.

The challenges from the bishop take inspiration from Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, which calls on ‘every person living on this planet’ to care for our shared earth.

Bishop Arnold challenged all parishes and schools in the diocese of Salford to form a group concerned with educating and making practical responses to deal with climate change.

The goal is to make the Diocese of Salford a flagship for effective action on climate change. Bishop Arnold is responding to his own challenge by beginning a major environmental project in the grounds of his residence, Wardley Hall. The Laudato Si Centre will be a place for practical action, learning about our environment and how we can live more simply and listen more attentively to the ‘cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’.

“There is still time but unless we achieve significant progress in the next 12 years, our scientists are certain that our future generations will suffer life-changing consequences with no means of turning the clock back,” Bishop Arnold warned.

“Therefore I am asking all schools, parishes and individuals to take action and heal the damage, mend our planet and ‘care for our common home’ for future generations.”

Picture: Archive photo from 9th March 2016 of a light illuminating the ‘Keep It Clean’ sculpture, commissioned by the community energy group 10:10 in Manchester. (NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA).