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Covid crisis and the need for solidarity and simplicity

In an abridged version of an open letter to the people of the diocese of Clogher Catholic Bishop Larry Duffy addresses the challenge posted to mankind by the Covid crisis.
 
TODAY, our world continues to be deeply affected by the Coronavirus pandemic which has much in common with the environmental crisis. Many experts tell us that this pandemic is a symptom of a much wider ecological crisis. 
It has certainly shown us how deeply connected everything is, how vulnerable we are as human beings and how fragile is our world. 
A small invisible virus has stopped the world, forced us to go into lockdown. As we celebrate the Season of Creation this year, we are asked to stop and think about the type of world we want to return to when this crisis has passed. As a human family, we cannot be healthy if the planet is not healthy.
“We must integrate questions of social justice into debates on the environment. Questions such as human rights abuses, the religious intolerance, discrimination, racism, the attacks on the life of the unborn and the denial of the right to life – these are all part of what Pope Francis calls ‘colonising interests’ and ‘the throw-away culture’ underpinning our neglect of creation and the creator.
Five years ago, Pope Francis published a ground-breaking letter called Laudato Si’. It was addressed to all people of good will and that includes you and me. He requested an “urgent dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet”, adding that we need a conversation which includes everyone, because the challenge we are facing affects us all. (see LS, 14).
 Since then a lot has happened in our world. There have been many more severe weather events causing death, destruction and displacement of peoples. We are repeatedly seeing many consequences of global warming which results in loss of life and threatens many different species of animal and insect life, the marines and their ecosystems.
 The Coronavirus pandemic shows just how interrelated we are and how much we depend on each other. It has also highlighted how dependent we are on the earth for our survival. The pandemic is also a call for us to reflect; an opportunity for us all to judge ourselves, to judge what we are doing and how we might have been contributing to the problem by our lifestyles. And the problem is wider than simply the ecological dimension – it is also a social one. 
We must integrate questions of social justice into debates on the environment. Questions such as human rights abuses, the religious intolerance, discrimination, racism, the attacks on the life of the unborn and the denial of the right to life – these are all part of what Pope Francis calls ‘colonising interests’ and ‘the throw-away culture’ underpinning our neglect of creation and the creator. 
In responding to this invitation to judge, we are called to be like the good Samaritan; to show solidarity with the earth and all its people, to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor and the wounded, to love our neighbour.
 
Since the publication of the Pope’s letter five years ago many young people have taken on the challenge of caring for our earth and our environment. The young Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, only sixteen years old, has led the way. 
She started out as one person, and last year seven million young people joined her in global solidarity. Young people have been urging us to reflect on these questions surrounding care of creation, highlighting the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor and wounded.
 So what can we do? The theme for this year’s Season of Creation in Ireland is ‘Cultivating Hope’. Hope is found in action and each of us can do something. We can take action to protect our bio-diversity, the birds and insects. During lockdown many people remarked on noticing the beauty of nature more, the birdsong, the trees, the wildlife. 
This is what happens when we slow down. We need to reconnect with nature and rekindle that sense of awe and wonder with creation – the presence of God. We are being invited to fall in love again with God’s Creation, like St Francis, to see nature as part of our family.
 Each week during this season, and beyond, we can also try to do small actions such as walking or cycling more, watching our energy use, sorting out our recycling, really thinking about how we use the resources of this planet. Our parishes should begin to look at how we can become more sustainable, more eco-friendly.  
This crisis is also linked to the spiritual life of our parishes. We need to rediscover a sense of reverence for God, for the earth and for our brothers and sisters who are excluded and treated like second class citizens -at home or away from home, born and unborn. 
We share this responsibility with the whole Church. We owe it to generations yet unborn to work together to sustain life on this planet, to protect God’s creation, our common home. 
 At Diocesan level, we have a Clogher Justice and Peace & Integrity of Creation Group which does great work in this area. The group would welcome additional members. If you are interested in joining and playing a part at that level, please contact the secretary, Anne Molloy on amolloy164@live.co.uk
 This is urgent. I urge you to act now and to pray. May our fragility, as shown by the pandemic, be our hope. Let us all use this time wisely; to pray and to act; to examine our consciences about the lifestyles we have; to choose simplicity of living as a route back to wonder and awe in God’s presence and, moreover, to show solidarity with our fellow beings and with creation through our compassion and actions. Everything is connected.

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