Christian leaders sign care for creation declaration

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Christian leaders sign to care for creation declaration

Over a dozen faith leaders from the Chicago area signed the Care for Creation Ecumenical Declaration on Aug. 17, 2023 as part of the Parliament of the World’s Religions at the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place in Chicago. Ecumenism Metro Chicago’s Chicagoland Christians United for the Care of Creation sponsored the signing. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Helen Theodorpoulos reads part of the formal document with Rev. Grayson Van Camp and Aphrodite Peponis. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Rev. Father Andreas Garabedian of the Armenian Orthodox Church chants “Ode to the Birds” by St. Gregory of Narek. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Chicago, shares a laugh during opening remarks. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Chicago, offers a prayer before signing the document. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Casey signs the official document as Rev. Grayson Van Camp of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago looks on. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Daniel Olsen, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s director for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, listens to the program. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
A chalk inscription scrawled on the pavement and suggestive of ecumenism photographed during the signing. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Terrien of Ecumenism Metro Chicago offers a closing prayer. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Major K. Kendall Matthews of the Salvation Army, Bishop Casey and Emily Echevarria, director of Climate Action for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, look on as the formal signed document is presented for viewing. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Emily Echevarria leads a closing procession of the signing while holding the formal document. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Father Thomas Mulavanal of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church greets Bishop Casey. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Signatories and presenters pose for a group photo with the formal document following the signing. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)

With Lake Michigan as their backdrop, leaders from 13 local Christian denominations, including the Archdiocese of Chicago, gathered on Aug. 17 on the outdoor terrace of the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place to sign a “Care for Creation Ecumenical Declaration.”

The signing took place during the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was held Aug. 14-18 at the convention center.

Michael Terrien from the Archdiocese of Chicago and Ecumenism Metro Chicago’s Chicagoland Christians United for the Care of Creation, which organized the signing, emceed the service.

Terrien said the parliament was a fitting venue for the signing because the group has always advocated for human rights and for the dignity of all creation.

“We believe that a clean, healthy, safe environment is a fundamental God-given right,” he said. 

Ecumenism Metro Chicago formed its care for creation committee five years ago when members became increasingly concerned over destruction of the environment, he said. After much study about what each church says about care for creation, the group drafted the declaration.

Terrien called it “a confession of our sinful lack of care for creation and a challenge to live more faithfully.”

“We are grateful that many people of varied faiths and those that profess no faith also deeply care for the earth, our common home,” he said.

Three members of Ecumenism Metro Chicago read the declaration and then each faith leader proclaimed a prayer and signed the declaration. Bishop Robert Casey, the archdiocese’s vicar general, represented the Catholic Church. 

Father Phil Latronico of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, attended the signing and was at the parliament as part of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers.

“I think it’s an important gathering of people to see that the faiths of the earth can come together in harmony,” Latronico said. “The signing today is important because it says the faith communities agree that we need to respond to the reality of what’s going on in creation — the amount of pollution, the amount of destruction that’s going about because of climate change that didn’t need to be if we hadn’t been so abusive to our planet.”

Before becoming a priest, Latronico was a scientist concerned about how polluted the Earth had become, and he participated in the first Earth Day celebrations in 1970.

“To think that here it is 2023 and instead of it having gotten better, it’s gotten worse,” he said.

Father Buddy Noel of the Archdiocese of New Orleans attended the signing with Latronico and is also a member of Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers.

He too has a science background and worked as an engineer for NASA before entering the seminary.

“I was born in 1961, so I remember the beginning of the ecology movement. This signing is an outgrowth of that,” Noel said. “Even then we were told, ‘Clean up the environment. Take care of the environment. It’s fragile.’”

The results of harming the environment over the years is evident now, he said.

“As people of faith we know that we can gather together to make a difference in that regard,” Noel said. “We have impact and can gather people together — all people of all faiths — because we have one common home and we’re called to take care of it.”

“To get 13 local Christians to come together and to be represented formally to sign on to something as important as the declaration to care for God’s creation I think is a testament to the commitment of Christians locally to dialogue over many years,” said Dan Olsen, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, noting the rarity of so many religious leaders coming together around a topic. “There’s a history, but it’s also a sense of the peril we’re in as a nation, as a world, with climate change and how we have to come together and address this together if we’re going to move forward.”



  • ecumenism
  • creation

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