How did you receive this unique invitation?
The Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) has launched a three-year reflection on ecology. That’s fine, because ecological conversion takes time. We’re not all going to get into ecology at the end of a plenary assembly! It has been five years since the encyclical Laudato If has been published, but we still have important work to do to appropriate this text in the Church. We saw it in Lourdes with debates on the notion of ecological sin, theology, anchoring in the dioceses… All of this will take time. I am delighted that lay people are associated with this process.
Inviting lay people to talk about ecology, is it relevant?
On ecology, yes. I am very pragmatic. Ecology requires creating links with actors who are outside the Church. That’s not to say clerics can’t do it. But it is essential that lay people involved in society on these ecological issues set up initiatives in the Church in conjunction with these actors of civil society. The place of the laity on this subject seems to me extremely legitimate. The new president of the CEF, Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort, wanted to give impetus to something different by bringing in lay people, but also in the method. A real dialogue has been engaged. What was beautiful is that we were truly “in the Church”, lay people and bishops, listening to what is happening in the world and in society.
What do you remember from this meeting?
A kind of bubbling, there were strong testimonies! We shared the state of progress of reflection on ecology. To speak of “collapsology” (note “collapse”) within the Assembly of Bishops is not insignificant. There was a listening. We will have to see how this will be received and transcribed in the dioceses. What I appreciated was that there was a progression. The first day, we were a little in chapter I of Laudato If , with the observation of what is happening in our “common house.” On the second day, the Gospel of creation was discussed more, that is to say the second part of the encyclical, with the theologian Fabien Revol. It was essential for me. Beyond the observation of the ecological emergency, how to look at this challenge with our faith?
Does the Church have a particular word to make heard on ecology?
Laudato Si, of Pope Francis, answers the question perfectly. Yes, Christians have a particular message to bring on ecology, a joyful message, because we are connected to Creation. The encyclical evokes a community ecological conversion, the need for dialogue, solidarity, the need to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor… This Christian message, which embraces all social doctrine, is extremely strong. The Church has internal resources that must be mobilized, especially its community strength. There are already places in the Church where sobriety is lived: in certain monastic communities or with the Scouts and Guides of France, which have initiated a real ecological conversion. It is in these spaces that we will be able to take root to do ecology. What does Christian ecology mean to us? What does this imply in terms of action? Let’s get started!
Are you coming back to Lyon with new momentum?
In Lyon, we already have a diocesan delegation for ecology, the Jean Bastaire chair, a theologian specializing in these questions, Fabien Revol. I myself take care of ecological conversion groups, and I am asked by parishes to start them elsewhere. There is also the Green Church label. How to enhance and revitalize this good soil? All these initiatives must come together and mutually enrich each other. I think that the role of the Church will not be to push things from the top but rather to create a space for meeting and dialogue between groups which do ecology but which perhaps do not connect enough each other. There are extraordinary riches in the Church.