By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

Every issue of The Catholic Leader focuses on how to be a better leader – ideally, a Jesus-like Leader, someone who embodies the roles of servant, steward and shepherd.

(If you were in church this past weekend, you heard Jesus tell his disciples: “If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35)

But this issue departs from the norm to focus on two issues of singular importance. One deals with our very survival on a planet that is losing its ability to sustain life – the most basic life issue of all. The other deals with the overt politicization and polarization that has fouled our cultural waters – ironically making it very difficult if not impossible to intelligently discuss the first issue.

We’re addressing both issues in this edition of The Catholic Leader because they are so critical – and timely -- to our mission to develop Jesus-like Leaders around the world.

  • The U.S. bishops have launched an initiative that looks to bring people together to serve the common good. Called “Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics,” it is designed to “move forward the kind of conversations that we need to be having to overcome our divisions,” said Jill Rauh, director of education and outreach in the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.
  • On the heels of World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, observed Sept. 1, we find ourselves in the month long Season of Creation, which runs through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology. For the first time ever, the leaders of three major religions -- including Pope Francis -- issued a joint proclamation citing the urgency of addressing climate change.

Civilize It

The U.S. bishops’ “Civilize It” initiative draws heavily from the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his third encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.

Rauh told Catholic News Service: “We are in a situation where both in society and the church we are experiencing a lot of division and polarization. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis specifically is calling Catholics and all people of goodwill to build a better kind of politics -- one at the service of the common good.”

The Civilize It initiative is meant not just for political leaders, but for all people, Rauh added.

To preview materials designed to explain and promote the effort, to go a dedicated page on the bishops’ website. There you will find a pledge to consider signing, along with several other resources:

  • A Civilize It promotion packet;
  • A Prayer for Civility;
  • 5 tips from Pope Francis for "a Better Kind of Politics;"
  • A reflection on "a Better Kind of Politics;"
  • An examination of conscience;
  • A brief white paper: Following Pope Francis: Dialogue in Fratelli Tutti;
  • A brief white paper: Loving our Neighbor through Dialogue.

As the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi approaches, the bishops’ Civilize It campaign offers several helpful and practical tips and resources for people to live out the request in the Prayer to St. Francis: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Season of Creation

“This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty and the importance of global cooperation,” said an unprecedented joint statement from Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, an early leader in the Christian ecology movement, and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England.

“We must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits,” they added.

Recent extreme weather events and natural disasters show humanity is now paying the price for how it has been treating creation, the joint message explained. “We repent of our generation’s sins.”

They said they are joining together in prayer, with the hope that their efforts and the efforts of concerned and committed people around the world would inspire participants at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Free handbook

The ecumenical Season of Creation steering committee has published a free handbook called the 2021 Celebration Guide which introduces this year’s theme, A Home for All? Renewing the oikos of God. “Oikos” is a Greek word that means, among other things, a house. Here the term is used to refer to the Earth as the home of God for His people, the human family.

The hope is to “to acknowledge the wisdom from countless sisters and brothers helping all to renew our world as an interconnected and interdependent global beloved community,” the steering committee said.

To review or print a copy of the handbook, click here.

While the annual observance comes to an end Oct. 4, Pope Francis made clear in his encyclical Laudato Si’: On the Care for Our Common Home that the effort to reverse the trends of planetary degradation must continue and, indeed, intensify, in the days ahead.

Vatican hosts meeting Oct. 4

In fact, on Oct. 4 the Vatican will host a meeting of the leaders of world religions to draft a statement to government leaders who will gather in Scotland in November for COP26, the United Nations climate summit.

According to Catholic News Service, the British and Italian embassies to the Holy See and the Vatican Secretariat of State have hosted six virtual meetings since February with close to 40 leaders from world religions and 10 top climate scientists.

During the meetings leaders had opportunities to share their faith's understanding of creation and the human responsibility to care for it, while the scientists updated them on the latest research, according to Sally Axworthy, the British ambassador to the Holy See.

According to Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, it’s "highly likely" that Pope Francis would be involved in the Oct. 4 meeting.

While both the pope and other agencies of the Vatican have been involved in high-level efforts to protect the sustainability of the planet, Pope Francis has made it clear that the effort is one that should involve everyone.

“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents,” the pope says in paragraph 14 of Laudato Si’.

Human life is depending on us.


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