La Croix: Four years after the launch of the label“Green Church”, what is your assessment?
Laura Morosini : What first surprised and delighted us was the enthusiasm of the parishes. We are delighted that the initiative is spreading among Catholics as well as Protestants. We were hoping for 100 certified parishes in three years, and in four years we have finally attracted nearly 600.
→ READ. French churches launch a “Green Church Label”
Another striking element, we expected to be solicited only by parishes, but we quickly found ourselves with requests from other structures, such as monasteries or pastoral care for families. In addition, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French Bishops’ Conference, helped bring out these ecological questions in the dioceses. Thus, in four years, the number of “integral ecology” referents there has exploded, going from 17 people and small groups to around sixty.
Why did you create a version of the label for the youngest?
LM: We quickly realized that within parishes, scout groups or chaplaincies were the most demanding. Studies show that children and adolescents are the most worried about climate change. We therefore imagined a course of one year, where each group is mobilized on two themes, a first spiritual, and a second on mobility, premises or food.
About fifteen groups have tested this course this year, and to encourage them, we have created a challenge to reward the most committed. The chaplaincy of the College Cassignol-La Benatte in Bordeaux clearly stood out and will receive this first prize on Sunday, September 19. It will be presented by the label’s diocesan ambassador on behalf of the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Mgr Jean-Paul James, and is also an opportunity to encourage other groups to get started.
Beyond the “good practices” to promote, how do you work to raise awareness in parishes about ecological issues?
LM: From the first months, we received requests for intervention and advice in the parishes. We have therefore developed a network of ambassadors, who today number around a hundred. In the parishes, many people are very little informed about ecological questions, and one finds even in groups of volunteers climate-skeptical remarks. With the association “La fresque du climat”, we have therefore developed a training cycle adapted to Christian circles.
By creating a garden or by bringing in a market gardener once a week to sell his vegetables, you give the parish back a central place …
LM: EncyclicalLaudato Si highlights how essential community networks are to green conversion. It was a hope for us that among the side effects of the label, there is this accentuation of parish life. It is sad to see that buildings are often used a hundredth of the available time. Ecological initiatives lend themselves a lot to building bridges, making the parish more alive and inviting neighbors to share moments around the church. We were inspired by places that collect unsold goods from the market to cook them and organize meals for the homeless. This type of action prefigures what the Church must become: the combination of essential times of prayer and a multitude of initiatives that go in the direction of a more fraternal and more sustainable world.
→ READ. What does converting to ecology mean?
Do these small groups stay away from political issues or, on the contrary, do they take hold of them?
LM: They appear in one way or another, often in a concrete way. Near Clermont-Ferrand, a parish wanted to install a compost and the neighbors said “us too! The city ended up installing a composter in this neighborhood, at the joint request of parishioners and neighbors. It is political to influence local life in this way! It is not spontaneous to say that as parishioners we have something to say about the location of a public service or the urban travel plan. Often, we censor ourselves as Christians, fearing that we are going beyond our role. But, some groups dare. In Bergerac, a parish is thus at the origin of a march for the climate. At the national level, we are disseminating the “Health of the Earth, Health of Humanity” petition before the next COPs. We want Christians to express themselves and bring goals, including for great causes. The local should not obscure the global.