TORONTO (CCN) — Catholics around the world are participating in a 40-day lenten fast to pray for unity in the Catholic Church and among world leaders in addressing climate change.
Organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), an international coalition of Catholic organizations and individuals advocating for climate justice, 45 countries have pledged to host one day of the 40-day lenten season to fast from food, as well as reduce their waste and carbon consumption. Renée Mercuri will be leading Canadians for the lenten fast on March 4.
“I didn’t see the fast as a way for people to want action, but to cleanse themselves,” said Mercuri. “Part of being able to act on a big world issue, I need to look inside myself first. It’s like the idea that you can’t go to a peace rally angry.”
Mercuri said a lenten fast makes a lot of sense to her because Lent is a time of cleansing and self-reflection. She had always been interested in environmental issues and has a degree in environmental science from the University of Waterloo. However, it was only recently she has found a renewed sense of spirituality that has her seeing these issues in a new way.
“I think that this fast is a completely appropriate tie in with our tradition,” said John Berkman, theology professor at Toronto’s Regis College and a member of GCCM.
“I’m going to fast anyway,” he adds. “But now I’m also limiting my carbon footprint. We are a culture of consumption and when we limit our consumption through fasting, it enables us to turn to God more faithfully.”
Berkman said this fast comes at a good time for the Catholic Church, especially as the world anticipates the pope’s upcoming encyclical on ecology.
“I think that this encyclical will be very important in bringing together the scatted teachings we have on the environment,” said Berkman. “It will help awaken the movement. I think that it will say a lot on climate change, how we treat the environment and non-human animals.”
Berkman is one of the Canadian representatives at GCCM, alongside other organizations like the Secular Franciscan Order of Canada, the English Speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.
The GCCM movement was formed on Jan. 14, coinciding with Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines to meet with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
“Pope Francis made it clear from the start that all people need to act as protecters of creation,” said Patrick Carolan, a GCCM member and executive director of the Franciscan Action Network in the United States.
As the movement’s first worldwide action, GCCM hopes to use this lenten fast to draw attention to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.