Catholic Archdiocese of Yangon

I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Catholic Archdiocese of Yangon

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo’s Call to Global Ecological Conversion

2, March 2017, Yangon, Myanmar, by Joseph Kung Za Hmung

Warning of the dangers of ecological crisis, especially its impact on the poor, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon addressed participants Monday (Feb. 27) on the opening day of the 17th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious, saying, “Today, we face an environmental holocaust — it is a scary moment.”

“Climate change is real,” the archbishop of Yangon told the 132 participants in a strongly worded keynote speech that outlined “ecological sins” and the need for “ecological conversion.”

Pope Francis “is raising the great cry against this impending disaster,” Bo said. Bo cited the pope’s environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” in which Francis quoted Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew as saying: “For human beings … to destroy biological diversity … by causing changes in [the] climate … to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life — these are sins.”

Full Text of Key note address by His Eminence Charles Cardinal Bo., DD, SDB is below;


Dear AMOR Friends from South East Asia, Oceania.

Warm welcome to the Golden Land.   Mingalabar.  It is a great privilege to me and to Myanmar church, CRCM and President Margaret Maung. Your coming is a great show of strength to this small flock. This Asian and Oceania fellowship is a great moment of grace.

Myanmar is a nation of natural and social beauty.   Nature is endowed with great biodiversity.   The social beauty comes from colorful ethnic people.   There are huge rivers dancing through the mountains and crawling through the valleys, with endless frolic in the valleys.    River Irrawaddy is a timeless river, the mother of our people, unfailingly feeding our people, transporting them to their kith and kin. Nature is our sacred mother.

Welcome to God’s own land.   Those who know this land will tell you, God is a Myanmar God since he has blessed this nation with scintillating beauty, covetous minerals.   God has given everything above the ground and below the ground. You name it – we have it: Jade, gold, gas, rivers, teak –  We may be the richest nation on earth – where the poorest people of Asia live. Our people are rich by a great spiritual tradition – a people known all over for their graceful and peaceful living.

I am doubly honored to be among you. I come from a Salesian tradition. AMOR is a great idea, a dream that religious women of Asia and Oceania face the social mission and promotion of Justice. This is your 17th forum and after 45 years Myanmar is proud to hosts to AMOR. On behalf of the 16 dioceses and 700,000 Catholics and 36 religious congregations: WARM WELCOME!.

You presence is a great honor to every Catholic in this country.


This is a great moment in history – as Kennedy once said : “Humanity stands today at the cross roads of history. Together we stand or divided we fall”.   He was talking about the threat of nuclear holocaust. Today we face an environmental holocaust. It is a scary moment.   It is Pope Francis who is raising the great cry against this impending disaster : “ Human beings destroy biological diversity, by causing damages in is climate. To contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins” Yes   this is the age of modern computers, this is the age of modern smart phones, this is the age of modern sins – yes ecological sins.   Individually and collectively human beings have chosen to destroy the mother earth.   They are polluting the very womb that bore them. Modern day greed has unleashed an ecological terrorism against mother earth.

Climate change is real. Planet earth is boiling and some parts of the world it is already roasted. Just another 4 degree increase – many of the islands of Oceania will not be there. Next century if we were to hold AMOR meeting here in Yangon, many countries will be missing if we allow global warming to continue.   Both Australia and countries like Philippines and Indonesia will see millions becoming environmental refugees. Babies will die owing to lack of oxygen in the wombs.

Climate change is an atom bomb waiting to explode – not one Hiroshima or one Nagasaki. Already the desert is extending, waterways are drying, arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate.


Pope Francis graphically opens the Encyclical with these poignant and moving words about the state of the earth today. “ Indeed earth, which is our common home, cries out to us in pain because we have hurt her by how we have used and abused her”. Creation as St Paul says “ the creation is groaning” with the pain inflicted by reckless greed.  In the book of Isaiah the pain of earth is graphically foretold.

                The earth is polluted because its people, Disobeyed the laws of God, breaking their agreement (24: 5-6)

We are standing at the threshold of an ecological apocalypse.   This ecological apocalypse is the result of an ecological sin. Once again Isaiah foretold : The earth is under a curse : Its people are dying because of their sins. (Is : 24: 1) A sin that has the shock and awe attack on cosmos, on God’s creation. Nature is God’s love letter. Creation is one of God’s love letter to mankind. ( Romans 1:20) God sent nature as love letter – man is replying with death sentence to Nature”.

So AMOR   we are grateful the sense urgency you have given to us. Your  contextual cry for justice, your provocative objective of this conference

To strengthen the prophetic stance as missionaries of mercy by promoting and pursuing ecological justice as “ cry of the Earth and Cry of the Poor” is timely.

You have chosen Laudato Si and Miserericordiae vultus as your framework.   I congratulate you!!

You have five goals to this gathering -which other speakers and professionals will deal with that.   I am requested to talk on the

‘GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION” with special reference to Cry of earth is the Cry of the poor.

Ecological conversion was a phrase introduced by Saint John Paul II. May his spirit guides us through these days of deliberation.

The Ecological and Social Crisis :

The crisis today is articulated in a single sentence : Might is right. If you are powerful you own every thing. All the wealth. Oxfam gave a grim data : Just 1 percent of the rich people own 50 percent of world’s wealth.   Pope attacked the ‘ worship of the golden calf’ of shameless wealth and ‘trickle down’ economy in his exhortation on Joy of the Gospel.   This world economy is made for looters and cronies.   We gather today knowing fully well by the end of this evening 20,000 children will be buried in poor countries owing to mal -nutrition and lack of medicines.

This is the economic injustice Pope attacked   directly in his first exhortation. But there is another injustice. Environmental injustice. Ecological injustice. The rich live a vulgar life of sheer enjoyment, destroying forests, creating green house gases that increase the global warming.

And who is doing this? : Rich countries. America with a population of just 6 percent of world, produces 40 percent of Green house gases. They have blasted the ozone zone, they have created global warming.   And the world is warm, they switch on their air-conditioners and sleep. Who is dying? The poor are dying. You know our country Myanmar is second rank. Yes it has many last ranks in many things. But it has second rank. What second rank? We are the second most vulnerable nation to global warming. Cyclones, earthquakes, floods name it. They are here only last ten years. We are a poor nation. Bangladesh is a poor nation. Rich countries throw carbon into atmosphere. We suffer and bury thousands after every natural disasters.

This is terrorism.   Ecological Terrorism. The powerful of this world is deciding who should live and who should die. Is it for this Christ die on the cross?

We are gathered her today not against ISIS terrorist. We are gathered here against economic terrorists and ecological terrorists. Both terrorisms are unleashed against the poor, the unborn. Pope articulates the ecological crisis we face is an integral ecological crisis :

We are faced not with two separate crisis, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, at the same time protecting nature” (LS 139).

Can this gathering be set on fire with a ferocious longing for Justice? Can we hear the cry of the Earth at this very movement groaning with the carbon suffocation, Can we hear the cry of the 1800 poor children buried every hour because they have no food?   Let our ears be open, Let our eyes be open – more than anything let our hearts be open. United we stand Divided we fall and become part of history.   Do not be afraid. A faith of a mustard seed is adequate. Onward March AMOR soldiers!!!

Moral Crisis

The ecological crisis is a moral crisis. It is an existential crisis. To be or not to be? Nature is cruelly mutilated for economic greed.   As St Paul Said “ Nature is groaning’ by the wounds inflicted by greedy men. God made a three fold covenant with Adam. Harmonious relationship with God, relationship with neighbor and relationship with creation. The book of Geneses calls for nurturing the nature and being nurtured by nature.

Since like the concept of original Sin, we have an ecological original sin. The breaking of the covenant with nature. Thus emerges a moral crisis. As the Pope says “ We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us (LS 67).   Ecological crisis is exactly the crisis Adam brought in the book of Genesis. The ultimate itch to play God when one is just a creature.

Science says world is 4 billion years old. We came just a billion years ago. The way modern man is destroying environment and ecology many wonder whether life will survive another hundred years. Global warming is real. In those 4 Billion years earth underwent great changes, but never like what happened last 250 years after industrialization.

Laudato Si has enumerated some of the great wounds inflicted on nature by man and woman; “Greenhouse gases” are released “mainly as a result of human activity.” Earth is being roasted alive by green house gases. Deserts growing. Happy you are here during February. Come back in May – Yangon will be a furnace you can bake bread in the streets.

“This century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the “worst impact” will probably be felt in developing countries. (We in Myanmar is a victim. We are rank 2 in global warming disaster risk. Rich countries produce carbon emission. After 75 years, in 2008 Myanmar had a mega disaster killing nearly 200,000)

“tragic rise in migrants,” escaping poverty caused by environmental degradation. By 2050, forty percent of the world population will not have regular drinking water. Next world war will be fought for water. We need to tackle water shortages and the poor quality of water in many parts of the world. It is a “basic and universal human right” and that to deprive the poor of water, denies them the “right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” The loss of biodiversity and extinction of species are also mentioned.

It speaks of the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, citing the “unruly growth” of cities, the effects of technological innovations and the omnipresence of the media.

Intra Generational and Inter generational Ecological Injustice :   The encyclical is very important in exposing two new concepts ; Environmental issues – what we do with our relationship with our neighbors and environment has direct impact on our generation : intra generation injustice. Inter generational injustice

Ecological Conversion

Since this is an deeply moral problem, an ecological original sin, it needs a ecological conversion, an ecological evangelization. “ Repent, the Creation of God is at peril, Change your life and save the planet”.

Catholic Church has already seized of this urgency. John Paul II, in calling the world’s Catholics to a commitment to avoid ecological “catastrophe” emphasized that, “we must therefore stimulate and sustain the ecological conversion”. The Pope added, “at stake, then, is not only a ‘physical’ ecology that is concerned to safeguard the habitat of various living beings, but also a ‘human’ ecology which makes the existence of creatures more dignified, by protecting the fundamental good of life in all its manifestations and by preparing for future generations an environment closer to the plan of the Creator.”

As per Pope Francis ecological conversion is going to require ‘ an overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failure and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change (LS 218) the Pope calls for an ecological conversion that today begins with consciousness of what is wrong and right, which must lead us to conscience of moral options and from there to conviction and then to conduct, to what and how we will change.

Conversion from   and conversion to’

Conversion is a loaded term.   Conversion implies two acts :   conversion from   and conversion to. St Paul was converted from pharisaical hatred of Christi disciple   towards a conversion to preaching Christ and dying for him. Conversion is not a half hearted affair.

Both John Paul II and Pope Francis speaks of Ecological Sins : We need to identify what are the ecological sins, I came across a document by Brazilian Bishops conference wrote after a meeting in response to Laudato si.  We need to have conversion from the following seven ecological sins :

Seven Ecological Sins

Consumption, greed and wastefulness – playing God with nature.

A throw away culture – use and throw -some time even foetus and babies.

Obstructionist approach – a cemetery mentality, not having any hope – not willing to do anything about ecology – giving up hope

Mental pollution – too much data, no knowledge or wisdom – never a joy in nature –mental pollution creating environmental pollution. Remember Pope Benedict words of wisdom in his inauguration : The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts are becoming vast” – Ecological crisis is the crisis of black holes in our heart and mind.

Unstable relationships – on and off aided by gadgets – use and throw relationship with nature and people. Nothing is sacred.   The tyranny of relativism has led us to destroy ecology.

Fragmentation of knowledge, never a sense of fulfillment, constantly prodded by media and gadgets and social media – the one finger generation. Every body, including the celibates seemed to be married to some gadget, a telephone, a laptop, a smart phone. Human relationship has collapsed – refusal to understand the interdependence of our existence with one another and specially with nature

Culture of relativism, no stable values in life – no respect for the gift of life either in human lives or in nature.

Ecological Virtues : Ecological conversion presumes a conversion to ecological virtues

Ecological education to our children – weaning them away from gadgets helping them to enjoy nature,

an ecological catechism, that instills true knowledge of God’s presence in Nature-

Cultivating sound virtues will be able to make a selfless ecological commitment

Replacing reckless consumption, greed and wasteful ness with sacrifice, generosity and sharing

Cultivating an asceticism like the integral ecology by which learn to give and share   moving from our greed to needs

Taking time for physical contact with nature, seeing God in everything

Ecological Evangelization – proclaiming the God of nature, seeing God in everything and everything in God.

This conversion is both at the personal level and communal level.

As we come into last part of this key note address I am reminded   :   where is the action? I was once told there are three kinds of mortal sins committed by religious

First mortal sin – attending meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting

Second Mortal sin is : conducting meeting after meeting after meeting

Third and the biggest mortal sin is : attending meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting and DOING NOTHING FOR THE PEOPLE.

So there is not only an ecological sin.   There is a mortal sin if we attend meeting after meeting and doing nothing.

So let me propose some concrete proposals:

Consecrated life and as a Prophetic witness to ecological conversion

Religious life is a great opportunity. Religious life started as a counter witness to the mainstream culture.   It started amidst the Greek culture of unrestrained hedonism and exploitation.   When the Rulers were   promoting eroticism and body enjoyment, the religious took on perpetual celibacy, when the rulers had slaves religious became slaves in obedience, when war broke out among nations for wealth and power, the religious took on poverty and simplicity of life.

Today when nature is being destroyed by extra ordinary greed – religious life needs to be a counter culture, a prophetic witness. This starts with a personal conversion.

We need to adopt a eco- spirituality. In his essay of theology and sanctity Fr Romanus Cessario OP forcefully warns of thinking that one can adopt a spirituality without simultaneously adopting a way of living. Consecrated life should be one element of the Church’s witness to the possibility of such a union.  Religious life should bear witness to the world that there is another way of living, a way that sees that ‘the mere amassing of things and pleasures are not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart’ and shows that it is possible ‘to give up what the market sets before us’ (LS 209).

We have great example in eastern religions. In monks and nuns of Buddhism. Monks are not allowed to own anything – except their begging bowl and a needle and thread.   Total renunciation and poverty is a great example how human beings can live without thousand things that we think are essential.   Catholic religious of the East need to adopt a life style which is more like Eastern religions : simplicity and veneration of nature.

Christ was an Eastern guru. He was soaked in nature. His parables were full of metaphors from nature.   “See the birds of the air and the flowers of the field” – a great example of making nature our teacher.   We as religious from East need to return to the wonder of nature, not the wonder of our computers and smart phones.

In Pope Francis we have a man whose humility is a great inspiration. He signifies like St Francis of Assisi, the integral ecology of environment and the poor. As the theologian Leonardo Boff says : “Francis isn’t a name; it’s a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power.” Yes Francis a great model for AMOR – a life of humility, a life of joy of the Gospel, life of seeing God in everything, everything in God.

Fighting for Ecological justice

Catholic church had fought for the dignity of human person. Now we need to enter into a profound awareness and fight for Ecological Justice. Ecological Justice celebrates the interconnection and interdependence of all beings, and recognizes our human responsibility to co-exist in harmony for the well-being of the Earth community. Ecological justice promotes human dignity, the self-determination of all persons, and the development of sustain- able economies with justice for all within a finite world.

Ecological Evangelization

“ Go Proclaim to every corner of the Earth” was the last commandment. We proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom. We proclaimed God’s   good news. We proclaimed Justice and peace. But we need to proclaim that “ the whole creation is groaning” we need to proclaim there can be no salvation without the help of other human beings and nature.   The Global Ecological conversion must start now. Preach in every door steps! Proclaim that we have only one planet.   If we cannot save our planet, we cannot be saved.

Need for a new Green Theology of Liberation:

Amor Friends : This is my major part of my key note – we need a major revolution. A revolution in thinking – a revolution in our theology.   We need to evolve an eco theology – a theology that integrates God’s creation as our cause and source of our contemplation.

The Pope’s Encyclical is some times called the green encyclical. It is not. It is still a red encyclical – upholding the rights of the dignity of the people, specially those in the margin. Some thirty years ago, theologians like Gustav Guttierz listened to the cry of the poor and out came the explosion of liberation theology. It was an earthquake.   The poor of Yahweh for too long forgotten by the arm chair theologians were brought to the centre stage. “ Option for the poor “ is the central discourse in theology today.

But theologians like Leonardo Boff points out, the liberation theology, need to be complimented by an eco theology because cry of the poor is often caused by the cry of the earth.

Leonardo Boff says the church under Pope Francis is “It’s a Church that walks the way together with the least and last. It’s an ecological church that calls all beings those sweet words ‘brothers and sisters.’’

Working for Intergenerational and Intra Generational Ecological Justice :

Global warming is stealing from the future generation. We have borrowed from the future generation. We owe a debt to future generation.   But we have destroyed many things that belong to the future generation. As religious we need become aware of the inter generational justice.

Intra generational injustice is the pollution, abuse among the societies, environmental degradation.     How we fight for these two justice will determine our credibility in this world.

Listening to eastern Religions  their concept of “inter being” with nature

More than Judeo Christian Religions eastern religions affirmed the sacredness of the ecology. Buddhism says Cultivating the insight of inter-being and compassion, we will be able to act out of love, not fear, to protect our planet” Otherwise, “When the Earth becomes sick, we become sick, because we are part of her”

Hinduism a religion of nature says : Climate change creates pain, suffering, and violence. Unless we change how we use energy, how we use the land, how we grow our crops, how we treat other animals, and how we use natural resources, we will only further this pain, suffering, and violence.

Greater attention to Indigenous Religious traditions

The church in Myanmar is an ethnic church. Our people were once great nature worshippers – everything was animated by spirit – little bit of divinity in every thing – the river, the tree, the mountain, the forest everything was soaked in spirit. Seeing the spirit in everything was their spirituality. They never exploited nature. What an ethnic leader said in a conference is very meaningful to AMOR :

We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival

What a meaningful word! Mother earth is a source of life not a resource to be exploited.

Special vocation to Women Religious

Ecological conversion is the duty of every one. But today I strongly feel women are blessed to be guardians of nature. St Francis of Assisi saw the feminine divinity in nature. Francis of Assisi: “Laudato Si’ mi’ Signore” “Praise be to you, my Lord”, which in the Canticle of the Creatures calls to mind that the earth, our common home, “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us” (n. 1).

Beautiful comparisons – earth as our sister with whom we share our lives and mother opens her arms to embrace us. Like the women in the Gospels I think this era, my sisters belong to you for going forth to every corner of the earth to proclaim the ecological Evangelization.


Thank you and wish your deliberations great success.


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