Monsignor Paolo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia, speaks about the Dubai event in which Pope Francis was also supposed to participate. Ecology and climate today become an “element of catechesis”, especially in the land of Arabia. A document by religious leaders has already been drawn up in Abu Dhabi. Faiths can “converge on ecological issues, finding fertile ground for meeting, discussion, dialogue and knowledge”
(AsiaNews) – The theme of climate linked to religion as an «element of catechesis». For Monsignor Paolo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen), the events scheduled in recent weeks in the Gulf recall an element that has long been at the center of the mission and constitutes a privileged terrain for dialogue with the Muslims. «In Emirati society, as in neighboring Oman – explains the prelate – there is great attention to the environmental issue, especially among young people who have read and studied the contents proposed in the Laudato Yes of Pope Francis. And as Cop28 approaches, the issue has become even more central.” In fact, from 30 November to 12 December, Expo City Dubai will host the UN international climate conference, in the presence of over 70 thousand participants including heads of state, government officials, international industrialists and representatives of the private sector.
To these are added academics, experts, young people and non-state actors to delve deeper into the contents of the Paris Agreement and which, in the Emirates, will be summarized for a first global assessment. To (also) underline the progress made with respect to the objectives and analyze the critical elements and unresolved issues. «The theme – says Monsignor Martinelli – is central in the life of the Church and of the children and it is they themselves who ask to explore it in greater depth in the post-confirmation process». «We speak of ecological conversion, of integral ecology – he adds -, expressions that indicate not only a particular aspect, but also a concrete theme that is part of their reality, which concerns them on a human level, in interpersonal relationships and with other faiths. A path that my predecessor had already started (Monsignor Paul Hinder – ndr]and which I myself have strongly supported on a pastoral level.”
Pope Francis’ commitment
Pope Francis was also supposed to participate in the three-day official visit to the Emirates from 1 to 3 December, which was canceled for health reasons. The most significant moment scheduled for December 2, with the Pontiff’s speech to the heads of state and government of the various nations, will most likely take place remotely. The following day, the inauguration of the “Faith Pavilion” is scheduled, which embodies and promotes the six objectives that led to its birth: to inspire faiths and religious leaders to work as agents of climate change; show practical actions by religious institutions and communities to stem climate change with effective indicators and monitoring mechanisms; create a coalition of religious people who work for the climate; encourage faith leaders themselves to engage in climate dialogue and inspire change; strengthen support for climate action; unify and guarantee the greatest possible strength of the religious leaders present.
Francis also spoke about Cop28 in Dubai in last Sunday’s Angelus, in which he urged the faithful present in St. Peter’s Square to pray for the conference to achieve its objectives. An essential goal, to give life – in a world increasingly marked by divisions, conflicts and violence – to common policies and fruitful collaboration to limit the increase in global temperatures and verify the impact of climate change. The launch of the Action Platform two years ago fits into this perspective Laudato Si’, linked to the encyclical, which intends to offer useful tools for the care of what the Pope has called several times “our common home”. An initiative promoted by the Dicastery for the service of integral human development, which represents a shared space in which the Church studies and develops responses to the ecological and environmental crisis, a theme also present in the Praise God. «Two years ago – underlined the Pope at the end of the Marian prayer – the Platform was launched. I thank those who have joined this initiative and I encourage them to continue the path of ecological conversion, praying for the Dubai Conference on climate change”.
Abu Dhabi, religions for the climate
The commitment of religions to the climate also emerged from the two-days of work on 6 and 7 November in Abu Dhabi of the “Summit of faiths on climate action”, which is part of the series of preparatory events for Cop28. The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, hosted the proceedings in the presence of dozens of religious leaders including the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Sponsored by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the Emirates, and organized by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the Holy See, the meeting also recorded the signing by the 28 religious leaders present of a common declaration of faiths on « actions to be taken for the climate”. In the document – which bears the signature, among others, of Cardinal Parolin representing the Pontiff, of Mohamed Al-Duweini, representative of the great imam of al-Azhar al-Tayyeb, and of Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus are calling for an “urgent and decisive” initiative to avoid exceeding the threshold of 1.5 degrees of increase in temperatures. At the same time, they call for greater support for the “most vulnerable communities” affected by extreme and catastrophic events linked to climate change. The appeal was entrusted to Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, appointed president of COP28 on the climate, who in his speech defined the document as a “powerful declaration of intent that the whole world needs to hear”. In this perspective, he continued, religious leaders become “guardians of the beliefs and aspirations of the vast majority of all those living on the planet and a voice for many communities that are not listened to”. An event also awaited by the Muslim world, as reiterated by the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Elders, the Egyptian Mohamed Abdelsalam, according to whom collaboration between faith and science is fundamental, as is the presence of religious leaders such as Pope Francis, as further testimony of the “urgency” of the crisis.
Environment, mission terrain and dialogue
The interreligious element in addressing climate issues is «a central point» and, quoting the Pontiff’s words, faiths «have the common task of safeguarding and promoting creation – continues the vicar of Arabia -. It is an interesting aspect that religions can converge on ecological themes, finding fertile ground for meeting, comparison, dialogue and knowledge” which is expanding to also embrace “the spiritual and doctrinal heritage”. To confirm the importance, the prelate recalls having dedicated more than one passage in the first pastoral letter to the faithful of the vicariate recently published: «God calls us – he writes – and draws us to himself through the beauty of things and life. We discover that God calls us to beauty, goodness and love. Life is a vocation because reality is a provocation.” The vicar continues by recalling the teaching of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Canticle of Brother Sun, inviting the faithful to «defend creation and the environment – as Pope Francis repeatedly teaches us – because things are signs of God. They lead us to God. It is part of our vocation to take care of creation because creatures are a gift from God, who invites us to love.” And if life is a “vocation to love and be loved”, he concludes, in caring for nature, the common home, the Christian finds fertile ground to carry out his mission and to establish a relationship of dialogue with Islam and other faiths.