The inaugural gathering of “’Laudato Si’ and the U.S. Catholic Church: A Conference Series on Our Common Home,” was held at Creighton University on June 27-29. Sponsored by Creighton and the Catholic Climate Covenant, it featured addresses from spiritual leaders and environmental advocates.

Keynote remarks by the Most Rev. Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, and Meghan Goodwin, associate director of government relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, kicked off the three-day event. The gathering at Creighton was the first of three planned biennial conferences. All are aimed at inspiring current and future environmental and Church leaders to more thoroughly execute Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical decrying climate change and its devastating effects on poor communities around the world.

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The following is an excerpt from the address given by Bishop Robert W. McElroy at the conference:

Laudato Si’ is a call to arms for those who would rescue our bruised planet from the forces that deplete and destroy it. But the encyclical is so much more than this. For in its delineation of an integral human ecology, it emphasizes that the illnesses that plague our world on so many levels are interrelated, and that progress in any one dimension requires attending to the wholeness of the human person and the human family just as it attends to the wholeness of our planet earth.

The healing of our nation requires a collective conversion from the individualism and selfishness that generate division to the sense of solidarity that can alone build a truly human society. We must reject the words and the sentiments that build walls of rejection and categorization within our society, and we must reject a nationalism that betrays the finest strands of our nation’s history and legacy by defining our country by what we are not rather than what we aspire to be.

The goal of this conference is to identify the pathways through which the Catholic community of the United States can help to forge a culture capable of confronting the environmental crisis. Three initiatives will be vital to moving in this direction.

The first of these initiatives is the launch of a broad interfaith movement of religious and cultural renewal that is rooted in God’s identity as Creator and proceeds to an abiding sense of giftedness. Giftedness is not the belief that America has received a special dispensation in human history to utilize the planet in pioneering ways. On the contrary, it is intrinsically linked to a stance of humility which acknowledges living in a land that has been blessed without carrying with that acknowledgement any sense of personal merit.

The second initiative that we must launch within the culture of the United States is the conversion from environmental denial to environmental reality. Our parishes and schools must become centers of truth-telling about the threats to God’s creation which are indisputably rising in our world.

The third initiative that the Catholic community in the United States should undertake is to empower children as the prophetic voice of environmental justice in our nation. Through the eyes, and the voices and the teaching of children, we must lead the adults in our society to comprehend the enormous deprivations that we are inflicting on future generations.

Full text of Bishop McElroy’s speech here.