The Indian priest Joshtrom Kureethadam, in charge of the ecological area of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and for many the Pope’s ‘right-hand man’ on climate change issues, has denounced that the universal Church has not yet taken “action” on this matter as he invited the institution to set a course towards complete sustainability within a decade.

“As a Church we have not taken action and this is what needs to be encouraged. The next decade will be crucial”, said the Vatican official in a July 30 interview with Spanish news agency Europa Press.

“For too many years we have left everything in the hands of those at the top, who are too conditioned by economic interests and lobbies. That’s why we’re insisting on the importance of grassroots movements in the Catholic Church”.

Kureethadam outlined a Vatican plan to work for profound change in the lifestyle of all social organisations – not only ecclesial groups – involving all sectors from families, dioceses, schools and universities to hospitals, agricultural companies and also religious orders.

“Our goal is to achieve a model of global sustainability. We are going to continue this initiative for ten years, until 2030. In that way, we want to reach the ‘critical mass’ necessary to accomplish the worldwide ecological conversion that the Pope is calling for”, stressed Kureethadam, who is one of the promoters of the Laudato si’ Year that will end on May 24, 2021.

The Vatican has scheduled a series of events linked to the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Pope’s ‘green’ encyclical, including annual awards that will honor the work of educational institutions, parishes, dioceses, religious communities and families in spreading the encyclical’s message; a project in Africa to plant seven million trees in the Sahel region; a contest on social networks around the reading of the Bible; and the installation of an eco-friendly chapel that will combine in its construction rare plants, materials discarded from cars and empty oil barrels so as to promote biodiversity.

For Kureethadam, the pandemic has highlighted “the disharmonious relationship” that the world had established with nature.

“In the last three decades we have seen the emergence of several viruses. This pandemic is an updated version of the coronavirus that already existed. This has been the most robust and has brought the whole system to its knees. But what we have to do is open our eyes and realise that we cannot continue with our lifestyle of frenetic consumerism”, the priest pleaded.

Thus, Kureethadam stressed that the coronavirus must be an “opportunity to transform the destruction and seek a new way of living”.

In his opinion, now “it is not a question of getting a vaccine and going back to what we had before”, but of promoting an “ecological conversion” based on fraternity and solidarity.

In this way, the priest underlined that systems based on “compassion” and not leaving the most vulnerable behind despite them not having resources “are those that have best dealt with the health emergency”.

“The virus has found fertile ground there where only those who have money can afford to go to the doctor”, Kureethadam concluded.

(With reporting by Europa Press)

More stories on Novena on the Church’s initiatives against climate change:

“We are one single human family”: Holy See calls on world “to fuel international solidarity and fight the culture of waste”

Vatican official urges world “to press the reset button” on system post-COVID, forge “a new path”

Global Catholic Climate Movement hails new Vatican Laudato si’ ‘user’s guide’ as “unprecedented”, “prophetic”

Vatican Laudato si’ ‘user’s guide’: In new document on integral ecology, Rome calls for “new model of development” that links fights against climate change, poverty

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.