Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 4)

Ecumenical Dialogue of Action: Promoting peace and Caring for the common home, our planet

Andreas Göpfert helped us reflect on how dialogue, including ecumenical dialogue, can be a catalyst for peace and social cohesion. During the private audience with the M.Afr. and MSOLA on the occasion of the 150th celebrations, Pope Francis encouraged the missionaries of the Lavigerie family to be bridge builders in order to create peace and inspire hope.

The promotion of integral ecology and care for our common home can be a great opening for ecumenical dialogue. Venerato Babaine shared with the participants his experiences working in this area in Zambia. He sees ecological principles and practices as an inevitable door for ecumenism and missionary activity. Referring back to Laudato Si’, we can see that there is a clear interconnectedness between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Christians of all denominations should work together to safeguard our common home and in doing so promote human dignity and social justice.

What is the contribution of the Orthodox Church to ecology? Frans Bouwen informed us that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomaios, was one of the first in the Christian world to highlight the spiritual dimension of the current ecological crisis. In fact, the roots of this crisis are spiritual and ethical: self-sufficiency, selfishness, consumerism, destruction of nature, etc. Orthodoxy promotes an ‘ecclesiology as ecology’ and proposes an ascetic ethos as an antidote to modern consumerism and a Eucharistic vision of thanksgiving as a life attitude which respects the integrity of creation.

Serge Traore explained to us how the upcoming Synod on the Amazon (6-27 October 2019) will provide new pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology. Its aim is to fashion the Church with an Amazonian face. At the same time, this synod offers the Church an opportunity to reflect on the interconnectedness of its mission, especially in relation to its JPIC-ED dimensions. There will be many possibilities for ecumenical activity in favour of the preservation of the ecosystem and social justice issues. We also see a shift toward a ‘South-South’ cooperation at the ecclesiological and theological levels. What could the Church (and missionaries) in Africa learn from the experience of the Church of the Amazon?

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, concluded our series of conferences with a presentation entitled: Laudato Si’ and Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for prophetic engagement’. She reminded us that Pope Francis calls all religious to be prophets of hope, full of passion and open to new opportunities: The current social crisis demands a personal and community-level ecological conversion. She gave us an overview of how to use the UISG website ‘Sowing Hope for the Planet’ and told us of an initiative to create ‘tents of martyrs’ during the upcoming Synod on the Amazon to honour all those who have given their lives for the protection of God’s creation.

After all these informative presentations, giving us an excellent panorama of the Church’s vision and commitment to ecumenism and what we Missionaries of Africa are doing to integrate it into our various apostolic activities, the workshop participants split up into small groups to generate some concrete recommendations to help ensure this dimension of the Church’s mission is fully integrated into the life of our Society.

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