The head of the National Laudato Si’ Program of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed optimism that all 86 dioceses can establish their “Ecology Desks” before the next climate summit.
In a post-COP28 press briefing in Manila on December 14, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos vowed to continue lobbying at the bishops’ plenary for the full implementation of the Ecology Desk in each diocese.
“We will aim for 100 percent – that all dioceses can create the Desk and fully engage in the ecological campaign of the Catholic Church,” said Bishop Alminaza, who is also the Vice Chairperson of Caritas Philippines.
Ecology Desk is one of the 10 points in the 2019 CBCP pastoral letter titled “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency” aimed to make the protection of the environment a special concern in all dioceses.
It is a response to the call for activating climate action “on behalf of voiceless people and the planet,” which is one of the central messages of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment – the Laudato Si.
Bishop Alminaza attended the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai with other Filipino climate advocates as the official representative of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
For the first time, the CBCP has sent an official not only to observe but also to engage in various side events and participate in the dialogue.
“Our task is to serve as the voice of the vulnerable communities. We must bring the stories of the communities that are gravely suffering due to the climate crisis to the negotiation table,” the prelate said.
Bishop Alminaza encouraged his brother bishops “to advance the synodal process” and “let the ‘Cry of the Poor and the Cry of the Earth’ be heard in all avenues”.
During the press conference, civil society leaders expressed support for the ecological program of the Catholic Church and noted the importance of the combination of “data-driven, scientific evidence and moral grounding”.
Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), said his organization “will continue working” with the Catholic Church on various climate-related issues.
“The collaboration between the Church and the CSOs is vital not only in the climate talks but in empowering vulnerable communities to the impact of the climate crisis,” he said.
Arances vowed that CEED will continue to provide “essential and relevant scientific research and studies” that organizations, including the Philippine Church “can use to advance the discourse on climate change”.
Rodne Galicha of Living Laudato Si Philippines and Aksyon Klima Pilipinas underscored the “tight cooperation” between the Church and the CSOs “in amplifying campaigns of local communities”.
“Climate talk or the COP is only one venue. The real battle that we need to win is with the local communities that are on the front lines against environmental plunder,” he said.