Information about Columban work on Climate Change

Can extreme weather events be blamed on Climate Change? The question was asked throughout this year’s summer of severe weather in many places, and the response from scientists was positive. A deadly heatwave in August hit Spain, France, Portugal and Britain. In September Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut in the western Atlantic and Pacific Oceans bore down on major centres of population. The Columbans, and indeed the Catholic Church generally, is greatly concerned over the people killed and millions displaced due to climate-related events and disasters.

In the context that burning fossil fuels puts further greenhouse gases into Earth’s fragile atmosphere, fossil fuel divestment has become a global phenomenon. Church groups are active in this campaign and the Holy See itself has a commitment to it and to invest positively in renewable energy. Church groups are also involved in trying to live more simply, develop eco-parishes and learn to value the natural world.

Do you realise that the Holy See has been very active in influencing Catholics to respond to climate change? Pope Francis regularly tweets on the issue, following up on his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si where climate change was described as real and mainly “a result of human activity”. The Holy See was active at the Paris climate talks that same year which reached the first-ever globally binding deal to address climate change.

December 2018 Climate Talks

Annual international climate talks are coming up in December. The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held 3-14 December in Katowice, Poland. One of the main tasks of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP24) will be to adopt decisions ensuring the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The importance of the 1.5C global warming limit was underlined in October’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Korea. The Korea meeting also looked at enhancing sustainable development and alleviating poverty.

See: Six graphics that explain Climate Change

Catholic Action

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference and Caritas India are among 19 Catholic institutions that announced divestment from the fossil fuel industry in September 2018. In total, 122 Catholic groups have divested since the Global Catholic Climate Movement campaign began in 2016. They include the Columban Missionary Society.

A Climate Pilgrimage set out from the Vatican in September 2018, carrying a cry for climate justice from the Holy See to the UN climate talks in Katowice. Prayers tied to prayer ribbons have been attached to the pilgrims’ backpacks. Walkers come from the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, and across Europe. The journey was inspired by Laudato Si’, the 2015 environment encyclical of Pope Francis. “As climate change makes storms rage, deserts grow, and seas rise, people of faith are called to act” said a statement from the pilgrims. “Laudato Si’ says that we need to “set out on the long path to renewal.” Pilgrims have talked to communities hosting them as they passed through on their journey and they tweeted messages to world leaders as they walked and encouraged climate action.

CAFOD, which is part of the international Caritas Network, is bringing 30 campaigners from England and Wales to join its delegation to the Katowice climate summit. The Vatican has put its “full support” behind COP24 in Poland.

Columban Mission on Climate Change


Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation work developed:

Research work on Faith and Ecology, Care for Creation and Climate Change developed by Columban eco-theologian Sean McDonagh:


Columban clergy, religious and laity involved in Justice, Peace and Ecology gathered in Manila in the Philippines to examine global warming. It was attended by representatives of all 16 regions where Columbans work. Climate Change was found to have far reaching impacts including increased migration, violence and poverty around the world. Climate Change was prioritised as a Columban issue.

During the same week in 2007, the Columban delegates joined local Filipinos attending a global warming conference organised by the Archdiocese of Manila, which became the first diocese in the Philippines to launch a programme of study and action to address climate change.


Columbans joined ‘The Wave’ in December 2009, where 60,000 people marched through London to call for action at the Johannesburg climate talks. Columban JPIC helped organise the service which preceeded ‘The Wave’ and was attended by 2,200 Christians and most Christian church leaders. These included Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and four other Catholic bishops.


Columbans linked the severity of Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines to Climate Change. The strength of tropical storms such as Haiyan is connected to sea temperatures, for as the oceans warm with climate change, there is extra energy in the system.

That same year Columban JPIC in Britain supported the production of a new DVD on ‘Conflict and Climate Change. View the trailer at:


The Columbans in Britain produced a video welcoming the environment encyclical of Pope Francis ‘Laudato Si’:

In December 2015 Columbans attended the Paris Climate talks to lobby for an agreement on climate change. They were present when a petition of nearly two million names of people of faith were handed over to the United Nations:


Fr Sean McDonagh attended a Laudato Si Conference at the Vatican:


Columbans sent a message to COP23 in Germany:


The Columban newsletter Vocation for Justice – Summer edition – focused on climate justice and creation care:

Columbans helped prepare resources for Creation Time 1 September – 4 October:

Useful Links

Operation Noah:

The Climate Coalition:



Relevant Quotes

  • A one-metre rise in sea level in the Philippines will affect 64 out of the 81 provinces. Already, the Philippines is coping with more frequent and severe typhoons, and farmers are having to deal with increasingly unstable climate patterns.

    - Fr Sean McDonagh SSC

  • In order to tackle global warming, the churches should be at the forefront, striving to understand the magnitude of this issue and the urgency with which it must be faced.

    - Fr Sean McDonagh SSC

  • The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. (23)

    - Pope Francis in Laudato Si

  • We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. (49)

    - Pope Francis in Laudato Si

  • Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realise that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. (159)

    - Pope Francis in Laudato Si

  • What they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. (217)

    - Pope Francis in Laudato Si