ROME — The archbishop of Luxembourg said this week that climate change is the most important issue faced by the Vatican synod on the Amazon, so its final document “should be very strong” on ecological issues.
“If our planet is destroyed, we can shout as much as we want about married priests or women priests, but there will be no priests needed anymore,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and a vocal ecological activist.
“So, it’s the most important problem and it’s a problem with the greatest urgency,” the cardinal told Jesuit-run America magazine.
Hollerich stressed the need for “ecological conversion” on the part of everyone, declaring that he no longer uses plastic bottles, buys fair-trade coffee instead of Nespresso, and has changed his diesel car for a hybrid one.
“We bishops have to change our lifestyle, and if we older people succeed in doing it, then the younger ones can do it too,” he said. “But if I cannot change my own lifestyle, how can I say to young people to do so?”
In late 2018, the Luxembourg archbishop signed an appeal calling on government leaders to take immediate action to overcome the “devastating effects of the climate crisis.”
The appeal called for keeping global warming below 1.5º C as well as a shift toward sustainable lifestyles, respect for indigenous communities, and the implementation of a “financial paradigm shift” in line with global climate accords.
This paradigm shift entails “putting an end to the fossil fuel era and transitioning to renewable energy” as well as rethinking the agriculture sector to ensure it provides healthy and accessible food for everyone, with a special emphasis on promoting agroecology, it said.
Following last May’s European elections, Hollerich said he was delighted with the successes of green parties while lamenting the rise of populist-nationalist groups.
“It is positive that in several places numerous young people voted for ecological parties, which means that the themes of environment and creation can become important in the future,” Hollerich said, noting that “as a Church” the victory of the green parties “makes us happy.”
Populist victories, on the other hand, would have been even “worse” if not for the pope’s constant call for a more welcoming attitude toward migrants, Hollerich said at the time.
The Italian vote does not mean that Italians are rebelling against the pope, the archbishop insisted, because “the Holy Father’s message and our message as a Church comes from the Gospel, and it is not a political or media message.”
“Then again, there are Catholics and Catholics,” he said.
Cardinal Hollerich told America he was most struck during the synod by “the violence the indigenous people have to experience. It’s violence against the rainforest and at the same time violence against the ethnic groups, violence against people.”
He said he also hopes the synod’s final document will include “something about the ordination of married men, and new ministries for women.”