"The Common Good of the Seas" -- a Catholic plan for caring for the oceans and its vulnerable peoples

February 28, 2020

 

“To ponder the immense open seas and their incessant movement can also represent an opportunity to turn our thoughts to God, who constantly accompanies his creation, guiding its course and sustaining its existence,” says Pope Francis. In a recent statement, the Catholic Church is calling upon the faith communities of the world, Catholic families and individuals, the European national and municipal leaders, and those of the world to join together to do what they can to transform the pathways of destruction and damage into actions that are life protecting at all levels. This means change for everyone, but also opportunities.

 

The Catholic Conference of European Commissions of Justice and Peace just issued a summary of action principles at this time of Lent and a full statement about caring for the degrading ocean systems and species and the coastal people who depend most intimately upon them -- called "The Common Good of the Seas."

 

These statements are not specific blueprints, but a calling to believers and nonbelievers at all levels of society to recognize the truth of the damage of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and suffering of fishermen and migrants, and then to take responsibility as Christ would ask us to do to address the suffering. "As a Church we should also not be afraid of advocating in favour of the need for ocean conservation in our social programs." And the "social programs" are based on the Gospel and its corporeal works of mercy, such as when Christ reminded all that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Him. Whether one is Catholic or of some other Christian denomination or faith/spiritual perspective, this is a call for reconsideration of actions and policies for transformative change.

 

Climatic changes and overfishing are causing great suffering to the family fishing operations and to coastal communities who are forced to be refugees by rising tides. The coral reefs, which are the marine nurseries, are dying, thus leading to lower fish populations and hunger for those who depend upon them for tourist dollars and fish.  And so much more suffering is being caused to the least of our brothers and sisters by various damaging actions. For Catholics and Christians, this is a Lenten opportunity to consider one's life and parish life and local/national ocean policies, and do what one can at every level to put them in line of the Gospel callings.

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