News the Pope will love: Faith and ecology teachings making world more holy

The Pope has come out, some might argue too late, with his treaty for Climate Change. How can faith leaders, or at least the Church position itself in the face of massive species die-offs, and the change in the way of life as we know it? Can the Pope’s Encyclical, the treaty itself, aims to serve as some manifesto as how the faithful should approach the impending doom humanity faces?

Perhaps. What’s most useful though in what I have siphoned from the report is the advice that the Pope has given and this resonates with eco-faith groups in the Holy Land, who have taken the treaty to heart.

After surveying hundreds of seminaries in North America, Israel, and Italy, a new report by the Jerusalem NGO, The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, reveals what they call “an emerging phenomenon” — that over 160 faith and ecology courses taught in recent years.

This is tailwind for the Pope’s hope, as he wrote in Encyclical: “It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in responsible simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God’s world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment.”

The Interfaith Center, active years before the Pope took a stance on climate change, published a Report on Faith and Ecology in North American Seminaries, which reveals how seminaries are part of the faith-based ecological transformation for which Pope Francis has called for.

The group also unveiled a searchable online faith and ecology syllabi collection, which makes scores of courses on faith and ecology easily accessible for instructors and administrators.

The Report and syllabi collection were created based on support of the Julia Burke Foundation.

yonathan neril
“We found over 160 courses on faith and ecology at more than 50 seminaries offered in recent years,” says Rabbi Yonatan Neril, ICSD’s founder and director, pictured above.  “While only 22% of the seminaries we surveyed offered such courses, I think Pope Francis’ call will help to move others to follow suit.”

With thousands of seminarians enrolled globally in these courses in recent years, part of the next generation of religious leadership is emerging better equipped to teach on creation care and stewardship.

Scores of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim seminaries exist in the Holy Land, and they can make further efforts to increase their teaching in this area.

Among them, the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem is the only seminary in Israel to offer a semester-long course on faith and ecology.

The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development works to catalyze a transition to a sustainable human society through the active leadership of faith communities. Thanks to this group more and more people of the cloth are looking to hold the hand of God as they look to change ecological education for the better.

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