11/14/2023, 12.35
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Cop28, Vicar of Arabia: Environment as missionary terrain and encounter with Islam

by Dario Salvi

Msgr. Martinelli on the appointment that in a fortnight in Dubai will also see the presence of Pope Francis. Ecology and climate become "an element of catechesis" today, especially in the land of Arabia. A document of religious leaders has already been drawn up in Abu Dhabi. Faiths can "converge on ecological issues", finding "fertile ground for encounter, confrontation, dialogue and knowledge" that also embraces "spiritual and doctrinal heritage".

Milan (AsiaNews) - The theme of climate linked to religion as an "element of catechesis". For Msgr. Paolo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen), the events scheduled in recent weeks in the Gulf recall an element that has long been at the center of the mission and constitutes a privileged terrain for dialogue with Muslims.

“In Emirati society, as in neighboring Oman - explains the prelate - there is great attention to the environmental issue, especially among young people who have read and studied the contents proposed in Pope Francis' Laudato Sì. And as COP28 approaches, the issue has become even more central."

In fact, from 30 November to 12 December, Expo City Dubai will host the UN international climate conference, in the presence of over 70 thousand participants including heads of state, government officials, international industrialists and representatives of the private sector.

To these are added academics, experts, young people and non-state actors to delve deeper into the contents of the Paris Agreement and which, in the Emirates, will be summarized for a first global assessment. To (also) highlight the progress made towards the objectives and analyze the critical elements and unresolved issues.

“The theme - says Msgr. Martinelli - is central to the life of the Church and of young people and it is they themselves who ask to explore it in depth in the post-confirmation process".

“We talk about ecological conversion, integral ecology - he adds -, expressions that indicate not only a particular aspect, but also a concrete theme that is part of their reality, which concerns them on a human level, in interpersonal relationships and with other faiths. A path that my predecessor [Msgr Paul Hinder] had already started and which I myself have strongly supported on a pastoral level."

The Pope at Cop28

In recent days, confirmation has arrived regarding the Pope's presence at Cop28, as part of a three-day official visit to the Emirates from 1 to 3 December. The most significant moment will be December 2, when the pontiff will speak at ExpoCity with a speech addressed to the heads of state and government of the various nations, followed by private bilateral meetings.

The following day, before returning to Rome, the inauguration of the "Pavilion of Faith" is scheduled, which embodies and promotes the six objectives that led to its birth: to inspire faiths and religious leaders to operate as agents of change for the climate ; show practical actions by religious institutions and communities to stem climate change with effective indicators and monitoring mechanisms; create a coalition of religious people who work for the climate; encourage faith leaders themselves to engage in climate dialogue and inspire change; strengthen support for climate action; unify and guarantee the greatest possible strength of the religious leaders present.

Francis spoke about participation in COP28 in Dubai last weekend at the Angelus, in which he urged the faithful present in St. Peter's Square to pray so that the conference achieves its objectives.

An essential goal, to give life - in a world increasingly marked by divisions, conflicts and violence - to common policies and fruitful collaboration to limit the increase in global temperatures and verify the impact of climate change.

The launch, two years ago, of the Laudato Sì action platform, linked to the encyclical, which intends to offer useful tools for the care of what the Pope has called several times "our common home", fits into this perspective.

An initiative promoted by the Dicastery for the service of integral human development, which represents a shared space in which the Church studies and develops responses to the ecological and environmental crisis, a theme also present in the Laudate Deum.

“Two years ago - underlined the Pope at the end of the Marian prayer - the Platform was launched. I thank those who have joined this initiative and I encourage them to continue the path of ecological conversion" by praying "for the Dubai Conference on climate change".

Environment land of mission and dialogue

"The interreligious element" in addressing climate issues is "a central point" and, repeating the words of the pontiff, faiths "have the common task of safeguarding and promoting creation" continues the vicar of Arabia.

"It is an interesting aspect - he adds - that religions can converge on ecological themes, finding fertile ground for meeting, comparison, dialogue and knowledge" which is expanding to also embrace "the spiritual and doctrinal heritage".

To confirm the importance, the prelate recalls having dedicated more than one passage in the first pastoral letter to the faithful of the vicariate published recently: "God calls us - he writes - and attracts us to himself through the beauty of things and life. We discover that God calls us to beauty, goodness and love. Life is a vocation because reality is a pro-vocation."

The vicar continues by recalling the teaching of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Canticle of Brother Sun, inviting the faithful to "defend creation and the environment - as Pope Francis repeatedly teaches us - because things are signs of God. They lead us to God. It is part of our vocation to take care of creation because creatures are a gift from God, who invites us to love."

And if life is a "vocation to love and be loved", he concludes, in caring for nature, the common home, the Christian finds fertile ground to carry out his mission and to establish a relationship of dialogue with Islam and other faiths.

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