Speaking Saturday, November 6 in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to graduates of theology and philosophy, Archbishop Martin said:
This past week, leaders and experts from almost two hundred countries have been meeting in Glasgow for COP26. Many of us have been thinking this week not only of the wonder and beauty of our planet but also of the great threat to it and to the future of humanity and life on Earth.
This 26th ‘Conference of Parties’ has taken place against a stark warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel’s report on Climate Change (IPCC) that the current level of global warming represents a ‘code red for humanity’. Although there have been some fresh or renewed commitments made since last Sunday, already there is protest and frustration that the world is simply not doing enough, as climate change activist Greta Thunberg put it, it’s all “blah, blah, blah”.
A few weeks ago, on the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis – together with other Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu leaders, – declared following a meeting with international climate scientists and experts, that:
‘We are currently at a moment of opportunity and truth.
‘Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity.
‘We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children’
From a faith point of view, God is calling us today, more than ever, to be caring stewards of creation, to protect and nourish our planet and its resources, and not to selfishly waste them or ruthlessly and excessively exploit and destroy them.
In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ (159) Pope Francis reminded us that: ‘Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit’. The world belongs also to those who will follow us. Intergenerational solidarity is, therefore ‘not optional, but rather a basic question of justice’.
Graduates of 2021, you have been entrusted with great gifts. In congratulating you on your achievements, I encourage you to bring these gifts – your appreciation of theology, philosophy, education, science, and the arts – to the service of dialogue and discovery in order to help address the immense challenges that lie before humanity. I welcome, in particular, the recent launch of The Maynooth Centre for Mission and Ministries which will actively enable new models of lay leadership and the co-responsibility of laity, religious and clergy in the service of the Christian mission – a mission which must now include more than ever: care for the Earth – our common home.
It is clear from events in Glasgow yesterday and today that people, especially our young people, are demanding courageous action – not just words – from leaders and government at every level. But none of us can be silent on these matters, not least graduates of this great and historic College. These challenges are not only for economics or technology or science or politics; they will not succeed without including faith and values, a deep commitment to love of God the Creator, and to neighbor; alertness to the protection of life and the dignity of all; and, commitment to truth, renewed dialogue and mutual respect between faith and science. All of these can be supported and nourished by a profound attitude of amazement, humility, and gratitude before the beauty and wonder of creation.
We all share responsibility for the problems facing our world, but equally, we share responsibility for finding the solutions. Each one of us must accept our personal and collective need to change and make sacrifices, recognizing the inherent issues of justice and fairness that are involved, and realizing, as Pope Francis says, that ‘the cry of the earth’ is especially ‘the cry of the poor’. Climate change is already having a disproportionate impact on those who are on the margins, those most dependent on fragile ecosystems and most vulnerable to famine, to drought, to food and water insecurity and conflict, to exploitative and ‘predatory economic interests’, to the destruction of their homes and displacement of their families.
When Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote his poem, God’s Grandeur back in 1877, there was little realization of these problems. Still, he had a keen sense of our need to cherish connections between humanity and creation and never to lose our sense of awe and wonder. He wrote:
‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod’.
The world is indeed ‘charged with the grandeur of God’. Today our Creator is calling us to stand together in harmony as a human family in face of this great global challenge. We must seek opportunities to celebrate our connectedness and interdependence. At a personal and community level we are called to greater simplicity and sustainability in our families, workplaces, schools, and universities. As servants of God and of one another, this will also mean accepting our own share of the pain necessary for ecological conversion.
Here in Maynooth, the three institutions: Saint Patrick’s College, the Pontifical University, and Maynooth University share an amazing campus in County Kildare which could if we worked together, become a model of sustainability and community well-being. There is so much that could be done to ensure that plans and developments here represent best practice in terms of energy management, quality green spaces for living and studying, and active commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint. At the same time, these sister institutions have great potential to create a model space for shared dialogue and research, where faith, culture, and science interact to foster a better future for all.
A culture of blame and despair regarding the future will achieve little. We must choose together to transform the culture and dispel the bleak outlook by actively pooling our gifts and talents in a partnership of dialogue and creativity, thereby changing hearts and minds and bringing all our shoulders to the task of protecting and caring for life on earth. Let us be passionate and hopeful for change, and see with the hope-filled eyes of Hopkins.
In my capacity as Archbishop of Armagh, allow me to acknowledge today’s first recipients of the Cardinal O’Fiaich scholarships, which are offered to high achieving students from Northern Ireland who wish to advance in theology at Maynooth. I am also pleased to welcome graduates from the Archdiocese of Armagh Adult Education and Pastoral Ministry program who have successfully worked their way through a six-year part-time program to achieve their Degree in Theology!