From The Revd Elizabeth Bussmann,
Environment Officer for the Diocese in Europe
‘One Church, One Faith, One Lord…’ In Assisi we came a step closer to this ideal! I was privileged to be in Assisi, Italy for the 1st Ecumenical Prayer Meeting For Creation marking the start of the Season of Creation. Privileged, too, to be there as the only ordained woman in what, to the eye, looked still very much like a man’s world!
St Francis of Assisi – a man for our times? Eight hundred years ago, St Francis renounced all wealth and earthly goods in response to Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. (Mark 8:34-37). He lived a life of simplicity and in relationship, not only with God but also with his fellow human beings and all of nature. Using the Shrine dedicated to Francis’ renunciation as the starting point, leaders and representatives of churches worldwide came together in Assisi at the start of the Season of Creation, to pray for our common home, Planet Earth. When the shrine was dedicated in 2017, Pope Francis talked of the need to renounce our egoism, which prevents us seeing and caring for the world around us. He said: “In a world of so much ‘individualistic sadness’ the Sanctuary of the Renunciation will hopefully nourish in the Church and in society – evangelical joy, simplicity and solidarity.”
On 31st August 2018 this solidarity became visible as the leaders met together. We met in a mood of contemplation and penitence as we reflected in various ways on the ‘tears of the earth and peoples.’ Repentance of our individual and collective mistakes, feeling for the pain of that sin and grieving for its consequences.
Rev. Christian Krieger (President of the Conference of European Churches) said, “Care for Creation is an unequivocal task for all Christians and all churches. It is the task which goes hand in hand with another principal task of churches, efforts for unity. Care for Creation is the task on which all churches can work together without raising any other issues needed to be resolved before.” And so we prayed together, reflected together, talked together and on the Saturday presented a united face as the representatives of the churches jointly read the Ecumenical Declaration on Creation from a dais in front of the Basilica of St Francis. No amount of wind was going to stop us, even though the floral decorations succumbed repeatedly to its force! It was a public declaration of our unity and invitation to all Christians and people of good faith to not just celebrate the Season of Creation but also call for international action on climate justice, a new global solidarity with the affected people and communities, to take bold action for the climate, not forgetting a personal evaluation of our own lifestyle and its effect on the world we live in. For as Pope Francis says, like peace, protecting creation is something ‘handcrafted’ that begins with ourselves. As the declaration says, “With the hope born of the gift of grace, we look forward to the day when humanity will rediscover its love for Creator, its reverence for creation, and its love for all the creatures who share this, our common home.”