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Issue Date:  December 14, 2007

-- Getty Images/AFP/Irshad Khan

Kashmiri volunteers from a nongovernmental organization collect rubbish during a drive to clean up Dal Lake in Srinagar, India, Aug. 28.
Indian Catholic group to stress 'green spirituality'

Thrissur, India

Spreading awareness of environmental degradation and developing a “green spirituality” will be the goals of the Indian chapter of a Catholic organization more than four centuries old, officials say.

The Christian Life Community chapter’s executive meeting in October decided to develop and spread “green spirituality,” according to the organization’s national promoter, Fr. Luke Rodrigues. Such a spirituality, he told UCA News, sees God in nature.

The organization’s 15 executives met in Thrissur, a town in Kerala state. The meeting followed a national formation program for youths at the same venue. About 70 youths from 34 Catholic dioceses attended that four-day program, which ended Oct. 21.

“You and Mother Earth” was the theme of the formation program, according to Rodrigues. Talks and discussions stressed that “sins against the environment are sins against God” and “neglecting nature means neglecting God.”

The Christian Life Community is the modern incarnation of a movement that a Jesuit began in Rome in 1563. In the 18th century, it developed into Marian associations that spread across the world and came to be known as Sodalities. Almost two decades after Pope Pius XII initiated the renewal of Marian congregations, the movements were reunited as the Christian Life Community in 1967. The mostly lay association is present in about 60 countries.

Rodrigues told UCA News that participants at the India executive meeting and the training program agreed to return to their dioceses and regions to organize retreats that stress the need for a spirituality based on nature, and to promote environmental protection values.

Two such retreats were planned for the Mumbai archdiocese in mid-December. Rodrigues said several other dioceses are in the process of organizing such programs.

Rodrigues, who teaches environmental science at St. Xavier’s Institute in Mumbai, said the formation program helped the young people understand that the environment “will be protected only when you consider nature as an extension of God.”

According to him, only when “we discover spirituality in all creation would we tend to care for nature and value its sacredness.”

The priest said the Christian Life Community India chapter plans to organize “more eco-retreats for youths and make them aware of the relevance of personal sacrifices in protecting nature.”

Nathalie D’Costa, who led a team of women from Mangalore diocese in Karnataka state, said they realized through the program that environmental protection would “ultimately mean a change in lifestyle.”

“It’s our greed that decays the environment, not our need,” the 44-year-old teacher said. Christians are “morally and spiritually” bound to protect the environment, she said.

D’Costa, a Christian Life Community member for the past 13 years, said sacrifices would mean avoiding the use of plastics and other environmentally unfriendly materials, and using natural resources such as water, wood and electricity sparingly.

The Indian Christian Life Community’s national secretary, Stephen Quadros, believes young people are becoming more sensitized to environmental problems because of church efforts to promote green spirituality. “It’s a positive change. Now more and more youths show interest in exploring ways and means to protect nature,” the 40-year-old college lecturer told UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, December 14, 2007

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