Current and Past Initiatives of the Archdiocese of Cebu in response to the Laudato Si, the Archdiocese of Cebu has seen the need to address the environmental crisis that has now reached a critical level. This direction coincided with the conduct of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) last January 2016 in Cebu City, which, through its theme “Christ in you, hope of glory”, aimed to make a call that would resound in the hearts and consciences of every Filipino to build a better future. The said bright future, however, cannot be realized “without addressing the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (LS, 13).
Hence, in June 2016 and in celebration of the Environment Month, the IEC – Committee on Environmental Concern (IEC-CEC) was launched to lead and coordinate environmental programs and initiatives of the Archdiocese of Cebu. It should be noted that past environment-related efforts of the Catholic Church, such as tree planting and clean-up drives, have been lodged under its Diocesan Social Action Center (DSAC). Chaired by the clergy and primarily composed of lay volunteer members, the IEC-CEC was initially tasked to lead the Parish Community-Based Pocket Forest Program, which intended to plant at least 13,500 trees all over the Province of Cebu as an act of penance for the 260 trees cut during the construction of the IEC Pavilion and as a way to contribute towards promoting biodiversity conservation. Through the help of partners like the University of San Jose – Recoletos (USJ-R), the IEC-CEC started giving Ecological Spirituality Formations among the clergy and lay communities in order to increase awareness and deepen understanding of Cebuano Catholics on the Laudato Si and on environmental conservation. It also encouraged the parishes to set-up pocket forests and/or to initiate tree growing activities in their areas.
In June 2017, Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma decided to evolve the IEC-CEC into the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Environmental Concern (CACEC) in order to institutionalize environmental conservation efforts beyond the context of the IEC. This also made Cebu the only Archdiocese in the Philippines with a dedicated Commission for environmental affairs. With its strategic niche of promoting “parish-based environmental action anchored on ecological spirituality”, CACEC intended to expand the desired outcomes of the IEC-CEC. In 2017, CACEC led the participation of the Archdiocese in the Province-Wide Tree Growing Initiative convened by the Cebu Provincial Government and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc (RAFI). The program expanded the tree growing target of the Archdiocese from 13,500 to 500,000 trees by 2021, in line with the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. As of December 2017, the Archdiocese has planted a total of 6,900 trees through its parishes.
We look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity (LS, 9).
We aim for an Ecological Conversion in addressing the environmental crisis.