WYD 2019: ecological conversion in action

WYD 2019 Youth Manifesto for Care for our Common Home – Panama

3rd International Congress on Care for Creation

19 January 2019, Panama City

We, young Catholics attending World Youth Day in Panama, want to lift our hearts and minds in praise, joy and gratitude to God for the beautiful gift of our beloved “sister Mother Earth”, to use St Francis’ lovely expression. As Pope Francis reminded us, we are also painfully aware that “our common home is falling into serious disrepair” (Laudato Si, 61).

Convinced that “all of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation” (LS 14), we call on everyone, and ourselves first, for urgent action to protect our
planet and the most deprived and most vulnerable people.

1. Injustice done to today’s poor and those of future generations

Our future and the future of those who will come after us is in grave danger. Humanity has long since embarked on an irresponsible path of environmental destruction that already makes the here and now precarious and jeopardises the future. Firstly, due to the climate crisis, we are already witnessing devastating consequences on every continent, with the average temperature rising by 1°C. The planet risks exceeding the catastrophic 1.5°C global warming threshold if the Paris Agreement is not implemented by all in a timely manner. Secondly, the biodiversity crisis has already led us into the middle of the sixth mass extinction, with animal and plant species irreversibly disappearing. In this regard, the Latin American bishops1 and the preparatory document of the Synod on Amazonia2 remind us that indigenous peoples have a decisive role in protecting their ancestral lands from indiscriminate exploitation. Moreover, there are other related crises of no less importance,
such as the water crisis, which make the state of our common home even more alarming.

We are told in Laudato Si that “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth” (LS 161). Moreover, as bishops across the continents [l’attuale] have acknowledged, “our generation is not doing enough to leave them a healthy planet. Being so short-sighted is an unacceptable injustice.” 3 We are aware that the ecological crisis is not only an intergenerational injustice, but
also an intra-generational injustice towards the poor and most vulnerable.

As Pope Francis wrote, “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest” (LS 48). This is why the migration crisis is closely related to environmental destruction: “Many of those who can least afford it are already being forced to leave their homes and migrate to other places that may or may not prove welcoming.” 4

Time is running out and many leaders have not yet embarked with conviction on the changes needed to protect our precious common home and all its inhabitants.

2. Genuine and urgent ecological conversion

We recognise that the ecological crisis is a symptom of a deeper crisis in the human heart. This reminds us of Pope John Paul II’s prophetic call to “encourage and support the ‘ecological conversion’ which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading.”5 Let us pray that this pilgrimage to Panama will become an important milestone in the ecological conversion of all World Youth Day participants, since, for us Christians, “Living our vocation to
be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (LS 217).

Aware of our share of responsibility in the current ecological crisis, we feel a deep need for repentance. In the words of Pope Francis, “a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change” (LS 218). The Church has a crucial role in driving this ecological conversion within the Church itself and in all social, economic, political, and institutional spheres. We are encouraged by the way in which Laudato Si is instrumental in urging people to care for Creation. There are countless initiatives around the world that are leading the way in transformative action for integral ecology. Yet, the urgency is such that much more needs to be done by all and with greater immediacy.

3. The role of young Catholics

The Synod of Bishops 2018 recognised that young people show that “there is strong and widespread sensitivity to ecological themes and sustainability that the encyclical Laudato Si has galvanised.”6.

In a particular way, this sensitivity translates into an appeal to all the ruling classes to act, because “young people demand change” (LS 13). In fact, there is a vibrant youth movement growing all over the world, strongly calling on the generation in power to take climate change and the ecological crisis seriously.

Young activists are taking unprecedented action, ranging from student climate strikes to legal action against governments for not doing enough to combat climate change.

It is against this backdrop that we young Catholics are also stepping up as never before. We take seriously the call of Laudato Si to take “drastic decisions to reverse the trend of global warming” (LS 175) and join our voice to the prophetic voice of so many other young people committed to the environment. n the words of the synod 2018 final document, “many young people wish to offer the fruits of their talents, skills and creativity and they are ready to assume responsibility” as they draw on the experience of their elders and the rich cultural and spiritual tradition of our Church.

4. Our commitments

We are aware that we, young Catholics, are not doing enough.
Despite commitments made at previous conferences on the protection of creation, at World Youth Day 2013 and 2016, we are not yet doing enough to mobilise others to care for our common home. In practical terms:

I. We commit ourselves to implementing Laudato Si in our daily lives, and to develop ecological spirituality (LS 216) and to adopt sustainable lifestyles. Change is also possible through small daily actions such as “avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices” (LS 211).

II. We commit ourselves to studying and gaining a better understanding of the ecological issue, with the aim of promoting and implementing the changes that are needed at all levels: in our families, schools, universities, workplaces, sports clubs, through the media and culture, etc.

III. We commit ourselves to making a strong appeal to the bishops and Church leaders to take the ecological crisis more seriously. Guided by Pope Francis’ call for us young Catholics to be provocative, to make a “lío” (which in Spanish means “to raise a racket” and “to mobilise”), we will be inconvenient “troublemakers”. We will be creative and positive in our dioceses, parishes and communities in order to help the Church to move beyond indifference and comfortable positions.

IV. We commit ourselves to assisting the Church by offering our time and talents to motivate our communities to take better care of creation; to collaborate, also at a broader level, to challenge and urge political leaders to take action, since the Church “must assert this responsibility in the public sphere [per] … and must above all protect humankind from self-destruction.” (Caritas in Veritate, 51).

V. We commit ourselves to standing in solidarity and collaborating with others, without losing our identity and integral vision of the problems. We will work with all those who, like the environmental movement and others, are working to defend and preserve our common home. To really make a change, it will be important to work together. Unity is strength. This is the spirit in which the Laudato Si Generation was born, a new network of young Catholics seeking to coordinate efforts, learn from each other and maximise everyone’s contribution.7.

5. Our requests

We ask the bishops and Church leaders to speed up the implementation of Laudato Si:

I. By encouraging ongoing ecological conversion through educational and training programmes at all levels, accompanied by special initiatives to cultivate the ecological dimension of our faith, including through the annual celebration of the Season of Creation8. t is therefore necessary to move beyond what is often marginal and sporadic interest to consistent and organised commitment.

II. By advocating for a conversion in lifestyles geared towards simplicity and sustainability through a commitment to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy in church facilities and achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2030 or sooner.

III. By adopting ethical investment guidelines that shift capital away from fossil fuels (divestment), considering that if we are to meet the Paris Agreement limit, we must “keep most fossil fuel in the ground”9. This is stated in the final document of the Synod on Youth (153).

IV. By taking on board the indications of the Synod on Young People and the preparatory work for the next Synod on Amazonia, it is necessary to support young people in the implementation of programmes to care for our common home and, in particular, to foster projects for the defence of the “lungs of the planet” (LS 38) that include the Amazonian forest with its indigenous inhabitants.

We also call on political leaders and relevant institutions to decisively and urgently address the main issues also highlighted by scientists:

I. By aiming to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy, in order to ‘end the age of fossil fuels’10 in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C;

II. By implementing the Global Compact on Migration, to address the issue of environmental refugees so that “no one is left behind”;

III. By working to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet’s ecosystems by 2030, with special attention to the indigenous communities living in these regions of high biodiversity, in implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity;

IV. By actively striving for universal and equitable access to safe drinking water by 2030, as stipulated in Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda;

V. By adopting a ‘circular’ economy model, to overcome the ‘modern myth of unlimited material progress’ (LS 78) and the ‘unlimited growth’ paradigm (LS 106).

We invite all young people of the world to stand together and transcend all differences to care for our common home.

May St Francis and the Patron Saints of WYD 2019 bless us and guide us in this challenging endeavour.

1 CELAM, Lettera pastorale “Discepoli missionari custodi della casa comune – Discernimento alla luce
dell’enciclica Laudato Si’”.
2 “Amazzonia: nuovi cammini per la Chiesa e per una ecologia integrale”: Documento Preparatorio del Sinodo dei
Vescovi per l’Assemblea Speciale per la Regione Panamazzonica, 08.06.2018.
3 Dichiarazione congiunta delle conferenze episcopali sulla giustizia climatica, Ottobre 2018: http://bit.ly/bishops-
4 Papa Francesco, Discorso del 9 Giugno 2018.
5 San Giovanni Paolo II, Catechesi, 17 Gennaio 2001.
6 Documento Finale del Sinodo dei Vescovi sul tema “I giovani, la fede e il discernimento vocazionale”, 46.
7 La "Laudato Si Generation" è una rete di giovani cattolici (tra cui reti come il Movimento Internazionale di Studenti Cattolici, Gioventù studentesca cattolica internazionale, Rete dei giovani cattolici per la sostenibilità ambientale in Africa, Don Bosco Green Alliance, Iniziative per i giovani della Caritas etc., coordinata dal Movimento Cattolico Mondiale per il Clima ) che sarà lanciata ufficialmente sul palco principale della GMG il 25 gennaio 2019.
8 Il Tempo del Creato, promosso dal Dicastero per lo Sviluppo Umano Integrale (http://bit.ly/letter-soc), si svolge ogni anno tra il 1° settembre, Giornata Mondiale di Preghiera per il Creato, ed il 4 ottobre, Festa di S. Francesco d'Assisi. Per maggiori informazioni: www.seasonofcreation.org
9 Papa Francesco, Discorso ai dirigenti delle principali imprese del settore dell'energia, 9 giugno 2018.
10 Appello dei vescovi continentali ai negoziatori della Conferenza COP 21, Ottobre 2015.