By Roy Lagarde

(File photo: CBCP News)

Catholic bishops rang alarm bells about the future of the country’s environment in a major pastoral letter condemning “the continuing destruction of our common home.”

The statement, released Tuesday by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), called for “ecological conversion” amid a “climate emergency.”

The nine-page document is divided into eight sections, with the first half offering a reflection on the state of the environment, followed by concrete ecological actions.

Following Pope Francis’ landmark environmental encyclical Laudato si’, the bishops stressed that the “cry of the earth” is equally urgent as the “cry of the poor” for social justice.

“Our preferential option for the poor pushes us to prioritize the most affected ‘poorest of the poor’ who cry to God for justice. It is our moral obligation to respond to their suffering,” the CBCP said.

“Given the high rate of poverty in the Philippines, the need to manage the environment is paramount. Poverty and environmental degradation mutually reinforce each other,” it said.

Pope Francis, in his 40,000-word encyclical Laudato ‘si, firmly pronounced that climate change is a threat to the world’s poor.

The CBCP letter outlines the issues facing the environment, among them irresponsible mining, the building of dams, and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy, such as coal.

Several studies have shown that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

“We must activate climate action on behalf of the voiceless people and the planet,” the bishops said.

The document is the eighth CBCP pastoral letter on ecology since “What Is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” which was the first in the world when it was released in 1988.

It was released after their recent plenary assembly in Manila as way of making Laudato ‘si work in the Philippines.

The Vatican had asked Philippine church leaders about what they had done in response to the challenge set by the pope’s encyclical.

In the new statement, the bishops agreed not to allow the financial resources of Catholic institutions to be invested in favor of coal-fired power plants and mining companies.

“Divestment from such investment portfolios must be encouraged,” they stressed.

The bishops also announced the creation of an “ecology desk” in all diocesan social action centers, which would make ecology their special concern.

They said they were one with the pope in pursuing a common agenda to protect “our fragile ecosystem from the threat of the continuing ecological crisis.”

“We have the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home. This is our Christian duty and responsibility,” they said.