Church in Action

Catholic Earthcare Australia

In 2002, the Australian Catholic bishops established Catholic Earthcare Australia (CEA) In November 2005, CEA organised a three-day Conference on Climate Change and presented a position paper for discussion. [1] More than 300 delegates – lay and clerical, secular and ecumenical – came together, including international and local scientists, theologians and activists. The topics of papers ranged from cosmology to the effects of climate change on human health. [2]

Other Catholic Agencies

The 2005 climate conference must be set in the context of the work of two national Catholic agencies of the Catholic Bishops Conference:

Caritas Australia (formerly Australian Catholic Relief) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC). They have fostered eco-awareness since the 1990s as a background to their overseas relief and social justice work, and sought to address causes and not just symptoms. Prayer resources and publications on the environment have been an important part of the materials they have made available to parishes and schools.

Bishops’ Statements

The environment was the theme of A New Earth – the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Sunday Statement 2002. [3]

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ 2005 position paper on Climate Change [4] said:

We believe that the Earth is a gift from God, valuable in itself, and that human life is irrevocably linked with the Earth. Catholic faith believes that the cosmos displays the goodness, beauty and power of God.


One significant move towards education for the environment has been On Holy Ground, co-authored by Catholic Education Offices and Catholic Earthcare Australia in 2006. This document presents a faith-based program for reflection on environmental issues, including climate change. This program has been localised in some states. [5] It is also backed up by school sustainability audits and development programs (developed in cooperation with government agencies) and by dedicated Catholic environmental centres such as those in the Townsville andBendigo dioceses.

Catholic school children are already receiving positive education for the environment, but it needs to be more vigorously pursued in adult Catholic education programs, centres and universities. The appropriate formation of teachers in Catholic schools to connect environment and faith is a pressing issue – though some eco-theology courses have been offered by the Broken Bay Institute, Catholic Institute of Sydney, Adelaide College of Divinity andAustralianCatholicUniversity.

Religious Congregations

Some religious congregations in Australia, like others worldwide, have taken a lead in implementing energy restraint within their institutional houses. [6] They have also initiated church structural responses such as ecological education centres and retreat houses, and involved lay people in the process. [7] Significantly, their work often focuses on personal conversion in line with Pope John Paul’s call for ecological conversion and ecological vocation.


Some Catholic groups have initiated faith-sharing and social activism on climate change by bringing together believers from many faiths. Since 1993, ecumenical reflection and calls for action on climate change have been coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC). [8] ‘Climate Change and the Church’s Social Teaching’ was addressed ecumenically in the UK Operation Noah project in 2008. [9]

In Sydney, the Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice started the inter-faith group, Faith and Ecology Network (FEN), in 2003.

[1] Rue was the principal drafter of the position paper.

[2] The topic of cosmology excited much interest at theCanberra conference. The Templeton Prize, awarded to scientists who help bridge the gap between science and religion, was won in 2008 by a Polish Catholic priest, Father Michael (Michał) Heller, specifically for his work on cosmology.

[3] Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, A New Earth: The environmental challenge, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Sydney 2002. Available at

[4] www.catholicearthcareoz.


[6] Religious Leaders, Rome, Global Warming 2002

[7] Brigidine Sisters, Good Samaritan Sisters, Christian Brothers, Presentation Sisters, Mercy Sisters, Good Shepherd Sisters, Franciscans and other Religious inAustralia.

[8] WCC, Time of Peril: Test of Faith 1993 and updated. Canadian Rev David Hallman presented a paper at CEA’s Climate Change Conference in Canberra 2005.