Petition to Archbishop Nelson Pérez to Prioritize Creation Care in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Dear Archbishop Pérez:

It is five years since the publication of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, a response to the anguished cry of the earth and of the poor. In that time, the environmental deterioration of this planet has not abated; it has only worsened.

We, the undersigned, are concerned for the care of our common home. We wish to respond to the Holy Father’s call for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” in light of the fact that “everyone’s talents and involvement” — yours as archbishop, as well as ours — “are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.”

The impetus for our writing to you was the fact that there is no office or organization within this Archdiocese dedicated to addressing this most pressing issue. We fear that our collective archdiocesan response thus far may corroborate the Holy Father’s sobering assessment when he writes: “Many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” We take this as a prophetic call to each of our consciences.

As you begin to plan your pastoral ministry to the Catholic community in Philadelphia, we know how vast a responsibility you face — particularly in times of pandemic — and we are very eager to support and collaborate with you on what St. John Paul II called the work of “ecological conversion.”

Concretely, we seek an audience with you in which to discuss the following objectives:

1) To establish an office within the Archdiocese dedicated to creation care.

2) To inspire our priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders to spread the Church’s magisterial teachings on the environment, galvanizing all parishioners to take personal and local action.

3) To use your own national spotlight and position of power to raise the ecological crisis in the awareness of your brother bishops and of the whole church in the United States, as well as to make a pastoral priority of interfaith and political cooperation on local Green New Deal legislation, in line with the Church’s teaching.

We have been heartened by your obvious expressions of genuine pastoral sensitivity throughout your priestly and episcopal ministry and feel confident that your love for the people of this city will extend to them in this particularly critical area of need.

We are motivated above all by heartfelt concern and anguish for our children and grandchildren and for the world they will inherit. We are fearful on behalf of the poor and disinherited; we are grieving the loss of the beauty and biodiversity of our planet and its fragile web of life. We earnestly implore you to see all pastoral planning and catechetical teaching in this Archdiocese through the lens of the possibility that a sustainable future is simply not assured without immediate and intensive action in which faith communities must play a part.

We speak to you as a faithful people, who are courageous and motivated but also significantly vulnerable and afraid; we often feel like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36) as we confront “the griefs and anxieties of our age” (Gaudium et Spes 1), and for this reason we are truly grateful for your pastoral care and attention.

Respectfully Yours in Christ,

Nicholas Collura, MDiv, BCC, Laudato Si’ Animator, St. Vincent de Paul Parish (Philadelphia)
John Humphreys, BSc, MSc, Laudato Si’ Animator, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (Doylestown)
and the undersigned.

(May 2020)