Papua New Guinea Cardinal Speaks on Climate Change at College

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Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea delivered an urgent message on “Climate Change, Sustainability and the Common Good” at the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

“Before it was a theory; now it is not a theory. It is a reality before us,” Cardinal Ribat said in his lecture. “Mother Earth is crying, and we have to do something. The whole of humanity, we all have a responsibility…We cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives.”

His talk reflected on Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si (Praise Be to You),” calling on all people to care for God’s creation. The cardinal’s presentation was held March 19 in the President’s Reception Room. About 65 people attended, including a freshman honors social entrepreneurship class, an environmental biology class and volunteers from several parishes.

While in New York, Cardinal Ribat also received a Loyola Medal from St. Ignatius Loyola parish in Manhattan, March 11 (CNY, March 15).

Papua New Guinea, in the southwestern Pacific, encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea and its offshore islands. It is among the nations considered most at risk from the effects of climate change. Organizers said Cardinal Ribat has worked diligently to share the experiences of the people of Papua New Guinea, heeding Pope Francis’ call for more commitments in seeking solutions to climate change.

The cardinal’s presentation featured a short video that included a dire predicament in Kiribati, a Central Pacific nation made up of 33 islands. “The sea level is rising; the country is extremely vulnerable. It is a very serious situation,” said a woman in the video about how climate change is affecting the islands.

Climate change is adversely affecting the livelihood of the people and threatening the existence of the islands, several people in the video warn. “We know it’s coming; they need to migrate,” a government official notes.

Another issue Cardinal Ribat raised was mining on the floor of the ocean, which he said could damage marine life as well as the livelihood of the people.

Grace Barry, an 18-year-old freshman who attended the lecture, said, “This is all so interesting. I had no idea what was going on in the South Pacific…It was a very well-rounded presentation.” Ms. Barry said she understands the faith-based concerns about protecting the environment.

Cardinal Ribat was elevated as the first cardinal of Papua New Guinea by Pope Francis in November 2016. The archbishop of Port Moresby is the nation’s first locally born cardinal and the first cardinal from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

His lecture was sponsored by the college’s accounting, business and economics, philosophy and religious studies departments and by campus ministry. Co-sponsors were the Sisters of Charity of New York’s Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, and the Metro New York chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Information: Sister Carol De Angelo, S.C., director of Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, Sisters of Charity of New York, (718) 549-9200, ext. 264.

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