If you want to see an inspiring example of engagement with Laudato si’—Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment—look to the Philippines. Catholics in the Philippines, more than anywhere else, have brought this encyclical to life and made it their own.
Laudato si’ was published in June 2015. Within a month the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released a strong statement backing the central concerns of the encyclical: ecology, stewardship, and concern for the poor. Indeed, the effort to combat climate change seemed so important to them that they invoked the Mandatum of Holy Thursday, saying: “caring about climate change and its deleterious and devastating effects on all, but especially on impoverished and struggling nations and communities...is how, today, we must wash each others’ feet.”
Their efforts on the ground reflect the vigor of this statement. Church groups have lobbied for clean energy; fought the spread of polluting industries, deforestation, and mining; engaged indigenous communities in planting trees; and worked for solar-energy access for off-grid communities in poor areas. The bishops have long been concerned for local biodiversity, and they continue to press for its protection. They’ve held educational conferences to unpack Laudato si’, and worked to develop a new mindset of conservation among young people. The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, followed by a month long “season of creation,” has a place in their calendar.