The Catholic Church needs to undergo an “existential metanoia” and address the “social sin of reckless manipulation of nature,” said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon.
The prelate, who heads the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, addressed an online meeting of Church leaders from Asia and Oceania on “ecclesial synodality” on September 29.
The initiative was organized by the River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN) “to listen to the voices of synodality in Oceania and Asia.”
The organizers noted that environmental concerns like sea-level rise, sea-bed mining, and extreme weather events can only be addressed “if Oceania and Asia act together.”
“The Catholic moral calculus needs to be reformatted to include ecological sins,” said Cardinal Bo, adding that the destruction of nature should be a “moral sin of the modern times.”
He said “ecological sins need to get as much press as the sexual sins get in many parts of the Catholic world.”
Cardinal Bo pointed out that Asia is home to “ecological religions,” which worship nature as a divine expression and recognize rivers and mountains as holy.
He said the people of Asia have “mainstreamed the idea of inter-being and inter-dependence.”
“While many believe the indigenous community is present in the Amazon area, we forget Asia is one of the biggest indigenous continents,” said the cardinal.
He said that with minority populations at about 80 million to 100 million, a “new evangelization waits” for the Catholic Church in the region.
Cardinal Bo said the Church should see the urgency and relevance of its mission and ensure that concern for nature — rivers, mountains, seas — “becomes a flagship initiative.”
The online event carried the theme “Ecclesial Synodality in the Shared Mission of Oceania and Asia” and was made possible through the collaboration of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Caritas, the Columban Missionaries, and the Ecclesial Networks Alliance.
Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, shared on “synodality and the new ways of being Church,” while Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, president of the the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania, spoke about the need to listen to the “peoples and spirits” of Oceania and Asia.
Organizers said the even aimed to create a “space for synodality through a dialogue between local voices and Church and ecumenical leaders” to strengthen “collaborations and commitments” among groups with a common desire to care for the environment.
Small island states are experiencing sea-level rise, sea-bed mining, and extreme weather events, said the organizers.
In Asia, climate events impact vulnerable communities that continue to see destruction in its forests, coastal areas, and the greater biodiversity that sustain all lives.
“As communities struggle to adapt, global efforts need to address these problems at the core,” read a RAOEN statement.
It said that these concerns are “interconnected” by way of the “river above,” which is the Pacific Ocean, described as “the life, the river of Asia feeding all rivers, seasons and lives.”