It was the “United Nations in miniature”, as smiling faces from around the world – from Mynmar to Ecuador, from South Africa to Lithuania, and from Australia to United States – beamed up on the Zoom screen! The occasion was the launch of the Online Course on Integral Ecology offered by an alliance of Pontifical Universities and Atheneums in Rome, in partnership with institutions and groups from across the globe. The youngest participant, eleven year old Kriti Angel in India, taking part along with her dad, wrote in the motivation column: “I would like to join the course to learn some precious lessons regarding the care of Mother Earth.”
The inaugural session was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on 25th January 2024. Prof. Prem Xalxo, the Co-ordinator of the Joint Diploma in Integral Ecology welcomed the Participants, followed by a beautiful and touching prayer led by Erin Lothes from Center for Earth Ethics in New York. Prof. Luis Navarro, Rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and President of the Conference of the Rectors of Pontifical Universities and Atheneums in Rome, officially opened the Inaugural Session, reminding everyone that “we are indeed fulfilling the wish of Pope Francis to engage in the care of God’s creation, gifted to us.” Prof. Mark Lewis, the Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, highlighted one of the main objectives of the Course on Integral Ecology, namely “to initiate a sort of cultural revolution to create ecological awareness that can in turn lead to collective action for the care of our common home and one another.”
The first of the six sessions that constitute the programme of the Course - based on the six chapters of the encyclical Laudato Si’ and with integrations from Laudate Deum – was entitled “What is Happening to Our Common Home?” Prof. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development opened the session, with an invitation to re-discover Earth as our “common home”, and proceeded to offer an integral understanding of the ecological crisis as the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, 49). Mr. Rodne Galicha, a renowned activist and leader from the Philippines, then went on to reflect on the groaning of the planet and the poor from a Global South perspective. Rodne spoke from the Sibuyan Island in the Philippines, where he is leading a Church-led movement against an illegal mining project that threatens the local ecosystem and communities. It was then the turn of Mauricio Lopez, from the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon, who eloquently and passionately spoke of the sufferings of the indigenous communities in the Amazon, drawing also from his experience as one of the leaders at the Special Synod on the Amazon held at the Vatican in 2019. Mauricio shared how the Church and the indigenous leaders are forging ahead with resilient pathways of ecological conversion, a shining model for faith communities everywhere. The Inaugural Session was crowned with a much-appreciated personal sharing from Susana Réfega, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Laudato Si’ Movement on the origin, growth and mission of their journey. It was inspiring to learn how the Movement, spread across over 150 countries in the world, has become a true leaven within the Church, inspiring individuals and communities in our common mission of creation care.
The Second Session of the Course on Integral Ecology will take place on 15th February 2024, chaired by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, while admissions to the course remain open up to 31st March 2024. The enrolled participants will receive the presentations and recorded versions of each of the sessions as well as online resources in the area of creation care. Worth mentioning in this regard is “Integral Ecology Collection” generously offered by the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at the University of Oxford, whose Director Celia Deane-Drummond is part of the distinguished faculty of the course.
- For more information regarding the course please visit: www.unigre.it/it/jdei-information/
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