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Francis of Assisi, oil painting by Lodovico Cigoli, 1597/9. © Creative Commons License
Aug 2011

UK Catholics: The Call to Creation

'The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.'
-- Genesis 2:15, cited by Catholics who see humanity's role as being stewards of nature, not its masters.

'And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.'
-- Genesis 1:31, cited by Pope John Paul II in 1990 to show that God entrusted Creation to human care.

'The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales wishes to add its voice to the many calling for urgent action to protect our earthly home from further destruction.'

'A way of life that disregards and damages God's creation, forces the poor into greater poverty, and threatens the right of future generations to a healthy environment and to their fair share of the earth's wealth and resources, is contrary to the vision of the Gospel.'

Video: The Canticle of the Creatures – A prayer by St Francis of Assisi
This recited text is an edited version of: 'The Call of Creation: God's Invitation and the Human Response', first published in 2002.

We are partners in God's creative enterprise, called to 'renew the face of the earth' until there is peace and harmony, sparkling life-giving water, the 'trees of life' that give health and the messianic banquet that can be shared by all the inhabitants of the earth. Then 'the curse of destruction will be abolished' (Revelation 22:1-3).

Read more:
ARC – Faiths and Ecology
Pope tackles issues of ecology and energy use (Dec 2006)

Buddhist monks in northwest Cambodia ordaining a tree. © Equator Initiative
Oct 2010

Buddhist monks ordain trees as monks

In response to widespread logging, the monks of the Samraong Pagoda acquired legal protection for 18,261 hectares (45,000 acres) of evergreen forest in northwest Cambodia. They established patrol teams, demarcated the forest's boundaries, and raised environmental awareness among local communities. The monks have developed unique approaches to law enforcement based on Buddhist principles, demonstrating the power of linking conservation with traditional customs and beliefs. [1]

In Buddhist thought and teaching (based particularly on the Lotus Sutra) the Buddha can take any form to bring about the release of any aspect of nature from suffering – including taking the shape of a tree. Based upon this and in response to the illegal destruction of trees in Cambodia and Thailand, Buddhist monks working in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), have ordained trees as monks. Wrapped in robes these trees are totally protected and the forest within which they stand becomes a sacred and protected area. [2]

The monks of the Samraong Pagoda received the 2010 Equator Prize for outstanding community efforts to conserve biodiversity. The award is sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Monk's Community Forest is now Cambodia's largest community forest. While logging and hunting are prohibited, villagers may use traditional fishing methods, collect fallen timber for construction, and harvest non-timber forest products like bamboo, wild ginger, fruit and mushrooms. Illegal logging of the forest has been reduced significantly.

Watch video and download full report here.

Bishop of London planting a yew tree. © Bankside Press
July 2010

Bishop of London plants yew tree at Lambeth Palace

On Sunday, 11 July, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, planted a yew tree in the gardens of Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Richard chairs Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England's national environment campaign. The campaign will be piloted in the Canterbury, Rochester and Southwark dioceses which together have 118 veteran and ancient churchyard yews between them.

The planting was witnessed by environment officers and other diocesan representatives, and was also an expression to celebrate the UN International Year of Biodiversity. The tree was donated by the Conservation Foundation, which had conducted a campaign to plant 7,000 Millennium Yew cuttings ten years previous. The Conservation Foundation and the Ancient Yew Group are pressing for yew trees over 500 years old to be given formal protection.

'Every diocese in the Church of England now has environmental issues on its agenda and today has been a real encouragement to hear about the considerable amount going on throughout the Church here and elsewhere proving that the Church has a very real role to play not just in saving energy, but biodiversity and other environmental issues,' said Bishop Richard.

'Planting a Millennium Yew tree in Lambeth Palace Garden is a reminder of the Church's long heritage of caring for God's creation and its commitment through Shrinking the Footprint to the International Year of Biodiversity.'

source: London SE1 community website: Bishop of London plants yew tree at Lambeth Palace