Online Course on Integral Ecology / Enrollment open to March 31


“The world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.” Such is the dire warning that Pope Francis issues in the recent apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, paragraph 2. The past week unfortunately provided some stark reminders in this regard. The annual report of the World Meteorological Organization released on 19th March declared that 2023 was the hottest year on record, while 2014-23 was the warmest decade ever. Two days prior to that, in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the heat index hit 62.3°C (144.1 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest mark since the city began to keep temperature records. And from last Monday, schools have remained closed in the already war-torn South Sudan in response to an unprecedented heatwave sweeping the region and expected to last at least two weeks!

It is against such a dire background of the alarming state of our common home which “is falling into serious disrepair” (Laudato Si’, 61) that the third session of the Online Course on Integral Ecology dedicated to exploring the “Human Roots of the Crisis” (chapter 3 of the encyclical) took place on 21st March. Prof. Prem Xalxo SJ, the Coordinator of the Joint Diploma programme in Integral Ecology, jointly organized by the Alliance of Pontifical Universities and Atheneums in Rome, welcomed everyone. The session was chaired by Prof. Giulia Lombardi of the Pontifical Urban University. In her opening remarks, Prof. Lombardi also greeted everyone on behalf of Prof. Vincenzo Buonuomo, the President of the Urban University. The group was then led to a beautiful moment of shared prayer raised on behalf of all the seven continents (including the Antarctic) led by Isaiah Ozaze Afodue. 

The session was ably moderated by Fr. Alfred F. Shirima of the Pontifical Urban University and a former student of the Italian edition of the Joint Diploma in Integral Ecology. The first speaker of the panel was Dr. Jacqui Rémond of the Australian Catholic University. She spoke of the ecological crisis as a “poly-crisis” and invited the group to move forward in a bold cultural revolution, effecting a shift from “ego-centredness” to “eco-centredness” within a relational view of reality. Prof. Dominique Lambert of the University of Namur in Belgium, the second speaker of the panel reminded everyone that Laudato Si’ is not against science and technology per sé, but against the reigning paradigm of techno-science, of which an epistemological analysis is in order. We can overcome the ecological crisis only through a deep anthropology of the human roots so as to discover what has brought us where we are.

 The third speaker of the panel was Dr. Michael Terrien of the Archdiocese of Chicago who highlighted how we have fallen victim to an ideology of dominion over creation and the vulnerable in our midst. Laudato Si’ invites us to re-define our place in cosmos as creatures, and undergo an eco-spiritual conversion, in profound humility. Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, the former Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus was the last speaker, whose passionate intervention highlighted the social dimension of the ecological crisis. Given that the poor and vulnerable are the unjust and disproportionate victims of the crisis, eco-justice should be at the core of any solution. We stand in need of an integral ecology reflected in a spirituality of solidarity and the adoption of simple life styles. A brief and enriching Q&A session followed the presentations with active involvement from the participants.

Prof. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, the Programme Director of the Course, thanked the speakers and the participants. Given that the registrations to the Course will close by 31st March, he highlighted the importance of extending the alliance of people from below for the care of our common home. This network is indeed being born across the globe, led by the Holy Spirit. As a confirmation in this regard, Fr. Josh narrated “the tale of two Jacquis” present at the session: Jacqui Rémond, the first speaker of the day for whom it was midnight in Australia as the session began, and Jacqui Miller in San Francisco, a generous donor of scholarships for the course, who got up at 4.30 in the morning to be with the group.




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