A recurring device used in BelperStuff is to comment on the complexities of politics or economics and then relate them to life as we live it in Belper. Sometimes this is reversed by featuring a local Belper news item and then to use this as a prism by which we can think about larger national or international concerns. Last week at the Belper Town Council meeting something was said that set off a chain of inquiry that took me by surprise, starting as the minuting of a few belligerent words spoken in St.John's Chapel leading to the discovery of 40,000 words that resonate with hundreds of millions people on this planet. I will share it with you:
There was what seemed to be an innocuous request on the council meeting agenda, an application to plant an oak tree in the Memorial Gardens. There was no background information available to those in the public gallery so it was necessary to listen closely to what was being said by the councillors. It soon emerged that they were not happy with the request as one by one they voiced their opposition. Joe Booth was the most vociferous as he quipped that, "little oaks grow into big oaks" as a means to highlight the cost of tree management. He then went on to name the applicant as the local catholic church and added, "they have enough land of their own so why not plant it there?" The impression made upon our correspondent was one of intolerance; in fact following another agenda item where a different applicant asked leave to place a bench in those same gardens, a request which was agreed with very little comment, the response regarding the oak tree felt suspiciously like prejudice.
|Catholic Church on Gibfield Lane|
So, last Tuesday I enjoyed an interesting telephone conversation with Father Michael Kirkham. He told me that his congregation wanted to plant an oak tree to symbolise their concern for nature and the challenges that face our planet; a gift to Belper that had a deeper significance. The motivation had been the Pope Francis' Papal Encyclical "Laudato si" more easily understood as "Praise be to you". This rather lengthy missive highlights concerns for the health of our planet and maintains that everyone should strive to protect nature and the environment. There is a discussion about global warming and the human activities that have exacerbated and caused this crisis. I have to admit that I did not read the whole document but this excerpt from the accompanying commentary and notes neatly sums up the message:
Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”, according to the expression of Saint John Paul II. We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At the same time, Pope Francis recognizes that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet” (19). A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home(13). “Men and women are still capable of intervening positively” (58). “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start” (205).
We should not forget that there are one billion Catholics in this world, that's 1 in 7 people on this planet. What we are witnessing in Belper must be happening everywhere, in every country Catholics are allowed to congregate. This is powerful stuff. I never dreamt that I would be writing about a Papal Encyclical or that my life would be in any way touched by what a Pope had to say so obviously his message for the planet is reaching out beyond the Catholic faithful ............. I have read that this was the ambition of Pope Francis, that his words should reach all of the 7 billion. Click on this link if you would like to read the full text of Laudato si.
I am one of the 6 billion who is not a Catholic, in fact I am not anything but I have to admit that I can sense the importance of Pope Francis' initiative. It's a pity that the quotes I have listed were not read out at the council meeting. But there is more ............
|Councillor Nelson's tree|
I understand from Father Michael that efforts are being made to plant the tree on another plot of public land. I wish him and the members of his church every success in not just their hoped for oak tree planting but also in their endeavour to protect and enhance the nature that surrounds us. It is such a pity that a blinkered and visionless town council did not think it appropriate to enquire into what lay behind the desire to plant this oak ............ as Joe Booth said, "little oaks grow into big oaks".