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Bishop John Arnold Speaks to SARX Conference

Bishop John Arnold SARX

On Saturday 18th March 2017, Bishop John Arnold gave the following speech to the SARX Conference.

Wouldnt it be so good if we could simply refer to a bible reference, perhaps something in Marks Gospel, that might go something like this: Jesus withdrew to the hills and he called his disciples to him and said to them The Kingdom of Heaven has that delicate balance of all the creatures and all living beings which my Father created to inhabit the world. While humanity has the special place in lordship over all creatures, that lordship brings the responsibility of care for all creatures in this world, which is our common home’”. Unfortunately, there is no such passage. But then, we should not be surprised that the evangelists were not concerned with recording anything that Jesus might have said about Nature and the animal kingdom. For the evangelists, their primary need was to record the teaching of Jesus about His relationship with the Father and our relationship with the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. That relationship provides the foundation on which all other relationships must be built and then the responsibilities and challenges that emerge from that relationship.

The Gospels are far from “complete” in the sense that Jesus was ministering in a particular place, at a particular time. He did not speak about war or any justification for war. He said nothing directly about the sanctity of life, medical ethics. Or, for that matter, social media!

But the earlier Hebrew Scriptures had plenty to say about the world and its treasure of living creatures. We do well to revisit the imagery of the creation story, in the Book of Genesis. God is seen taking care to create a world which is full of innumerable creatures and, with each passing day of the week of creation, God saw all that He had made, and indeed it was good. God places Adam and Eve in authority over allthere is the immediate imposition of responsibility for welfare of all in their care. Responsibility, in its turn, is not simply a static duty but something that requires the benefits of research and ever increasing knowledge and understanding.

St Francis is just one of the great saints in the Christian tradition who saw the value and the dignity of the animal world and the delicate balance that exists within creation. There were several saints in the First Millennium who had a profound respect and understanding for the animal kingdom, and its integration in the total portrait of our world: St Basil the Great, St Columba, St Cuthbert. Their insight was laudable but our increasing knowledge today gives us an additional sense of urgency. We understand so much more about our planet, its climate, the environment and that brings the delicate balance of the animal kingdom into a new light.

It is only really in recent decades that we have been provided with information that shows the brutal consequences of our actions. In many cases I am sure that the resultant damage was not understood or intended by those who inflicted it in past centuries. So much was seen merely as industrial progress with no thought given to the long term ravaging of our planet. But the damage is now all too evident. Pope Francis said: The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”.

Pope Francis has triggered new thinking. It is not to say that there have not been many dedicated people issuing persistent warnings about the damage we are inflicting on our world. But I think it is true to say that it was Pope Francis who grasped the possibility of bringing Nature into a new focus, and made it a new priority for a much wider public. I have never known a papal document to have been so eagerly anticipated as Laudato Si. This was awaited by so many people both within the Catholic Church and amongst environmentalists and politicians around the world. While it is to be expected that a Pope speaks primarily to Catholics, Pope Francis purposefully addressed his letter to the whole human race.

(As an aside, I should say that I stand in awe of Pope Francis and his ability to make connections. He never speaks about one thing without connecting it to several others. His first letter to the members of the Catholic Church, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) very quickly and persistently reminded us members of the Church of our common responsibility to each other in confronting the dangers of our world and the decline in values within our society. His recent letter to the Church on Marriage and Family Life, did not limit itself just to “Marriage” and Familybut he wove in all forms of relationships and their inter-dependence in their changing stages of our lives.)

The sub-title of Laudato Si is On care for our common homeand Pope Francis makes those essential connections to show that our common home is not just home to the human race but home to all creatures and all life. He leaves no doubt as to the damage we are doing to our world and the damage does not simply impact on our brothers and sisters – particularly in the global South – but also on the delicate balance within the animal kingdom where thousands of species are being eradicated. Whether Catholic or not, let us be glad of the voice that Pope Francis has given to the welfare of animals in his challenge to us all.

I am aware that there is a wide diversity of people gathered for this conference. Many will be vegetarians or vegans. Some will consider the killing of any animal to be both unnecessary and wrong. Others will have primary concerns for the humane treatment of animals even when they are bred for consumption or kept in captivity. I wonder how many would have felt reassurance in a recent report on BBC Radio 4’s “Farming Todaythat the U.K. ranks as fourth in the world for animal welfare standards? Whatever our own individual beliefs I would be sure that all of us feel an urgent need to recognise a justice that would prohibit any cruelty or distress to animals, particularly through any sense of sport or recreational hunting. I think we would all agree that we now have sophisticated technology which shows us that there is a delicate balance of all Nature in our common home and we are entrusted with maintaining its well-being.

Education would now seem to be the greatest challenge. When people buy prepared and neatly packaged meat in our supermarkets, is there any understanding of the techniques employed in its mass-production; the abattoirs, and the battery farms? How many know of the destruction of male chicks, at one day old, because they are economically less useful and profitable? How many children in our schools visit farms or understand how many animals are treated? I have met all too many children (and not only children) who make no connection between what they eat and how it is sourced.

My hope for this conference would be that it can lay foundations for wider education, so that more people may come to understand the horrors that are inflicted on animals merely to satisfy our greed and pleasure. We all need to grow in an understanding that we share a common home for which we need to care and that care must encompass the environment, the reality of climate change, the consumption of unsustainable resources, the detrimental impact of industry and consumerism particularly on people who have done least to damage our world and a care for the animal kingdom with its delicate balance and dependence. Animals have their own dignity as part of Gods creation.

We hear of the extinction of thousands of species, each having their own place within the balance of Nature. We have failed to recognise their value and their right not just to function but to thrive within Nature – as was intended by their creation and development. While we should be pleased to see the growing voice but by no means yet a universal voice – to tackle Climate Change and to protect the Environment, we must also include all the connections that the animal kingdom has with the Environment and the essential part that they play in sustaining our World.

Television programmes presenting the research which shows the intelligence of animals and their abilities and expectations do much to make us aware of an intelligence that we have previously overlooked. This wealth of knowledge can no longer be left to academics or those who simply have an interest in animal welfare. Our knowledge requires firm action.

St Ignatius of Loyola, a Sixteenth Century Saint and Founder of the Jesuits, built a spirituality for Christian action with his prescription to See, Judge, Act. Understandably, Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, employs “See, judge, act” in Laudato si. 

We can now “see” all too clearly the damage which is being done, and its inevitable impact on our world. Modern research shows us the wider picture, the connectedness between our actions and the damage that we inflict. We can see all too evident cruelty imposed on animals for our convenience and we have clear knowledge of their suffering

This conference can assist us in judgingwhat needs to be done. The more we can assist people in seeing, the more urgent will be the evidence for action.

When a judgement is made, there follows a need in all conscienceto act. This will not, inevitably, all happen at once but pressure can and will grow through individuals collaborating in groups, agitating in politics, and making their voice heard. Our longer term goal must be that those with authority and power will come to know that they have the mandate to “Act” so that we may take necessary steps to care for our common home”.

Pope Francis uses a term in Laudato Si which constitutes a “vision”. He speaks of integral human developmentwhich he explains as a development that recognises that balance between all elements. In this vision, he sees humanity as having a particularly responsibility for all parts of creation. Our science and research are to be valued but must always be employed for the good of all, for the benefit and well-being of every aspect of our common home. And, ironically, in generously caring for all aspects of creation we will in fact be taking the best care of ourselves the Human Race.

While the task ahead is daunting, the indicators for success have never been stronger. Perhaps we really are approaching a tipping point. I would suggest that our best hopes for achieving a common care for our world and all creation lies in education, personal example and persuasion, based on established truths – rather than in aggressive criticism and anger. To achieve real progress, it will require the livelihoods and aspirations of many people to change. This will best be achieved by education and a conversion of heart rather than by legislation and imposed regulation. In all this, we must not underestimate our individual efforts and our personal conviction which will speak loudly and clearly to those around us.

We have a prayer in my Diocese which is simple and profound. I think it may well apply here. It is “Stay with us, Lord, on our journey”. Let us be encouraged by that truth that when we are about His work, He is with us.

CATHOLIC VOICES LEAD THE WAY AT

CREATURE CONFERENCE

 

Pioneering Event Captures the Spirit of Laudato Si

  creature-conference

BY DARYL BOOTH

Laudato Si has been hailed as a truly historic and game-changing document for animal welfare concerns. The encyclical, or letter, from the Pope is full of references to animals and calls on all of us to embrace a more humane path.

Nonetheless, Laudato Si is not the first time Pope Francis has spoken out against the abuse of creation. During a trip to the Philippines, a journalist asked him whether he thought that mankind was responsible for climate change, to which he replied, “I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature”.

Slaps down nature. That’s well put! Society as a whole slaps down nature when all it seeks to do is consume more hungrily, upgrade more regularly and accumulate more greedily. Yet what role does Christianity plays in all this? Does Christianity abet the slapping down of nature or does it encourage its flourishing?

 

Is Christianity Good News for Animals?

The pivotal question “Is Christianity Good News for Animals?” is the theme of the Sarx Creature Conference. This unique event which aims to equip and support Christians to engage theologically and practically with animal issues within the Christian life will take place at Oasis Auditorium on Saturday 18th March 2017.

The Catholic voice will be particularly well represented by two keynote speakers. The Rt Revd John Arnold is Bishop of Salford, spokesman on the environment for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Chair of the Trustees of CAFOD.

Flying over from Canada to speak at the conference is Professor John Berkman, Catholic lecturer of theology at Regis College, Toronto. Professor Berkman, who was previously professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and at Duke University in Durham, NC says; “The Creature Conference is a fantastic opportunity for Catholics and all Christians to better understand key developments in recent Christian thought that makes God’s great love of all animals so abundantly clear.”

Joining Bishop Arnold and Professor Berkman as keynote speakers will be:

Dr Margaret Adam – Theologian, ethicist, author and former lecturer at Loyola University Maryland and the University of Glasgow. Currently Visiting Tutor at St Stephen’s House, University of Oxford.

Dr Tony Campolo – Professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, Baptist minister, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton

Professor David Clough – Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chester, President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, Founder of CreatureKind, and Methodist lay preacher

Dr Ruth Valerio – Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha UK, environmentalist, theologian, social activist and author on justice, environmental and lifestyle issues

The Rt Revd Dominic Walker – President of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, former Bishop of Monmouth and Honorary Vice President of the RSPCA

 

The conference will feature a wide choice of workshops including Living Laudato Si’: Putting Eco-Theology to Work for Animals by Catholic scholar Dr Allison Covey as well as a round-table discussion and the opportunity to explore and reflect among a series of interactive stations and an art exhibition.

This conference is generating a lot of excitement and endorsements have come in from high profile Christian leaders and writers including Dr Brian McLaren, Professor Stanley Hauerwas and The Revd Steve Chalke MBE. Author and former Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd John Pritchard writes: “I’m so glad this conference is happening. It will take further what I hope is a growing consensus amongst Christians that animal life deserves the same respect and care as the rest of God’s creation, animal, vegetable and mineral, as well as human. We share the same space, just as we share God’s love.”

 

 

Barbara Gardner talks to Safe & Sound Radio 

Ark Editor, Barbara Gardner talks to Sandra Kyle and Lynley Tulloch of Safe & Sound Radio about the faith’s teachings on the compassionate treatment of animals.  Subjects include ‘do animals have souls?’, ‘do animals have rights?’, veganism and new insights from Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter, Laudato Si’.  Listen to the podcast here:

Part 1 – 26th Sept 2016
Part 2 – 3rd Oct 2016

Visit and please ‘like’ Safe & Sound’s Facebook page here:

Animals Are Not Freight Rally – 29th August 2016

On 29th August CCA joined CIWF in their campaign ‘Animals are not Freight’.  Hundreds gathered in Parliament Square in London to protest and listen to speakers including CIWF Chief Executive, Philip Lymbery; campaigner against live exports and former Thanet district councillor, Ian Driver and Green Party spokesman and animal welfare advocate, Keith Taylor MP.  This was just one of many global events held to tell politicians around the world that ‘Animals are not Freight!’.

Go to http://notfreight.org/ to participate in the ongoing campaign.

Top right: CIWF CE, Philip Lymbery speaking.

 

Dog Blessing Service at the Church of St Roche, Quebec 

17 August 2016

On 17th August, the feast day of St Roche, a dog blessing service is held at the Church of St Roche in Quebec, Canada, to celebrate this patron saint of dogs.  Here are some images from the 2016 dog blessing service.

Celebration of 30 years of Joyce D’Silva at CIWF

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This year, Joyce D’Silva is standing down from a leading role in Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), after a career spanning 30 years, first as an employee, then as its Chief Executive, and finally as its Ambassador.  CCA was very pleased to be represented by CE, Chris Fegan and Ark Editor, Barbara Gardner, at the wonderful event held on 13th July 2016 to ‘celebrate 30 years of Joyce D’Silva’ and to look back on her amazing career with CIWF and her outstanding achievements for farm animals. 

The event was held at Savoy Place in London and was attended by many people who had worked with Joyce during her long and successful career.  Patron, Joanna Lumley and Chief Executive, Philip Lymbery, hosted the event, where those attending heard tributes from three guest speakers and were shown a short film of her achievements, before finally hearing from Joyce herself.  Joanna Lumley said that Joyce ‘had been a beacon’ and Philip Lymbery said that Joyce had been ‘a leader, champion and pioneer’. 

The first guest speaker was Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester, who spoke about the new Centre for Animal Welfare at the University, where there are under-graduate and post-graduate courses in animal welfare, as well as teacher training qualifications which focused on animal welfare to ensure that this was then taught to young people and, importantly, would save children from unlearning the natural compassion which they already had.  The University also included animal welfare in its policies and their catering including only animal products from higher welfare systems.  Joy said she thought the future looked bright for animals in that 70 per cent of vegetarians and vegans are under 34 and that social media was very powerful for getting animal welfare messages across.

The second speaker was Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation.  He criticised the lack of compassion in the environmental movement, which saw nature as a resource to be managed for human needs only.  Martin pointed out that we are just a part of a much bigger whole and he thanked CIWF for bringing animals and compassion into the movement.  He highlighted the important role of the faiths (who own 12 per cent of the world’s farmland) in bringing compassion back into the way we treat animals and the wider environment, and stressed that they needed to get back to some of their original teachings which had been forgotten.

The final speaker was John Webster, Professor Emeritus at the University of Bristol.  He described Joyce as ‘the finest advertisement for a vegan diet that I have ever met’.  Describing farmers as ‘stewards of the land’, he criticised farming subsidies for failing to reward stewardship of the environment and animal welfare, which included both farm and wild animals.  He hoped that some good would come out of the fallout from Brexit and that subsidies could be revised based on the fundamental principle of respect for all life.

Finally, Philip summed up Joyce’s outstanding career, saying that she did not just fight for freedom from suffering but that animals should get joy out of life. Joyce’s many achievements are staggering.  Compassion’s 1 million signature petition to the European Parliament helped achieve legal recognition of animals as sentient beings.  This was then incorporated into the European Treaty.  Under Joyce’s leadership, sow stalls, veal crates and barren battery cages have been banned in the EU.

Joyce is spiritual and compassionate nature.  She has championed the faith-based approach to sharing compassion towards animals and has written extensively on the subject. Luckily she is still doing work for Compassion on a consultancy basis.  She is also a patron of The Animal Interfaith Alliance, which CCA is a founder member of, and they are very proud to have Joyce as a patron.

Jo Chris Joyce

Joyce D’Silva with CIWF patron, Joanna Lumley and CCA CE, Chris Fegan.

 –

Vatican’s Message for Buddhist Feast of Vesakh

Pope Francis & Buddhists

Here is the message from The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to Buddhists on their Feast of Vesakh.  The English-language message was released by the Vatican today.

* * *

Buddhists and Christians:  Together to Foster Ecological Education

Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. In the name of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, we are pleased to extend once again our best wishes on the occasion Vesakh, as you commemorate three significant events in the life of Gautama Buddha – his birth, enlightenment and death. We wish you peace, tranquillity and joy in your hearts, within your families and in your country.

2. This year we write to you inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter, Laudato Sì, On the Care for Our Common Home. His Holiness notes that “the external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (n. 217). Moreover, he states that “our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature” (n. 215). “Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment” (n. 211). In response, Pope Francis proposes that “ecological education can take place in a variety of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere” (n. 213).

3. Dear Buddhist friends, you have also expressed concern about the degradation of the environment, which is attested to by the documents The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change and Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders. These evidence a shared understanding that at the centre of the eco-crisis is, in fact, an ego-crisis, expressed by human greed, anxiety, arrogance and ignorance. Our lifestyles and expectations, therefore, must change in order overcome the deterioration of our surroundings. “Cultivating the insight of inter-being and compassion, we will be able to act out of love, not fear, to protect our planet” (Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders). Otherwise, “When the Earth becomes sick, we become sick, because we are part of her” (The Time to Act is Now).

4. As the crisis of climate change is contributed to by human activity, we, Christians and Buddhists, must work together to confront it with an ecological spirituality. The acceleration of global environmental problems has added to the urgency of interreligious cooperation. Education in environmental responsibility and the creation of an “ecological citizenship” require virtue-oriented ecological ethics such as respect and care for nature. There is a pressing need for the followers of all religions to transcend their boundaries and join together in building an ecologically responsible social order based on shared values. In countries where Buddhists and Christians live and work side by side, we can support the health and sustainability of the planet through joint educational programmes aimed at raising ecological awareness and promoting joint initiatives.

5. Dear Buddhist friends, may we cooperate together in liberating humanity from the suffering brought about by climate change, and contribute to the care of our common home. In this spirit, we wish you once again a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
President

Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ
Secretary

 

Notice of change of publication dates for The Ark commencing in 2016

Commencing from 2016, the new publication dates for The Ark will be 1 March, 1 July and 1 November.

The Hymn of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 The Year of Mercy.  To celebrate this The Hymn of Mercy has been written by Paul Inwood and adopted by the Vatican as the official hymn for the year to be sung all over the world.  Here it is performed by the choir of St John Vianney Catholic Church, Wantage and recorded by Howard Hill.

CCA Lays a Wreath at Remembrance Day Service for Animals

Animals in War Mem 2015Catholic Concern for Animals laid a wreath in remembrance of the millions of animals killed in war at the Remembrance Day Service for animals in war at the Animals in War Memorial, Park Lane, London on Sunday 8th November at 3.00pm. The service was led by CCA sister organisation, the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA) with special guest Sally Baldwin of Nowzad Dogs. The service was led by Rev. Helen Hall and Rev. Prof. Martin Henig.

CCA AGM 2015

Brompton OratoryCCA’s 2015 AGM was held at St Joseph’s Hall, at the Brompton Oratory on Saturday 17th October, where the guest speaker was Dr Richard D. Ryder. Dr Ryder is CCA’s scientific advisor and author of the books, Victims of Science, Animal Revolution and The Political Animal.  He was a leader of the animal rights movement from the 1960s onwards and has been a Chair of the RSPCA national Council.  He coined the word ‘speciesism’.  At the AGM he presented a very exciting speech which covered the subjects of how to campaign and meat addiction.  For further details click here …

Laudato Si’ Celebrated at the Interfaith Celebration for Animals & AIA AGM – JULY 2015

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At its first AGM held on Sunday 12th July 2015, the Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) unanimously approved the following resolution:

“That the Animal Interfaith Alliance abhors and condemns the attempt to undermine the Hunting Act 2004 by the proposed Statutory Instrument.”

The motion was proposed by Chris Fegan, AIA’s Director of Education & Campaigns and Catholic Concern for Animals’ (CCA) General Secretary.  It was seconded by Sarah Dunning, AIA director and trustee of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (AWSA).

The AGM followed the 12th annual Interfaith Celebration for Animals, led by AIA Chair, Rev. Feargus O’Connor, at which readings on animals were given by Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Jain, Muslim and Unitarian speakers from each of their faiths.

Dr Deborah JonesThe keynote speaker was Dr Deborah Jones who talked on Pope Francis’ new Encyclical on the Environment, Laudato Si’ and discussed its historic importance for animals. Dr Jones is AIA’s Vice President and is also Vice Chair of Catholic Concern for Animals.  A Catholic Theologian, she is author of The School of Compassion: A Roman Catholic Theology of Animals.

Dr Alpesh Patel from the Dr Hadwen Trust spoke on the humane medical research undertaken by the trust, for which AIA’s own Dr Schweitzer Universal Kinship Fund is a sponsor.  The research involves no animal testing and therefore saves both animal and human lives.

AIA’s managing director, Barbara Gardner also gave an update on the progress of AIA since its formation in 2014 and expressed AIA’s goodwill and gratitude to Pope Francis for the excellent document, Laudato Si’.

Funds raised at the Interfaith Celebration will be donated, half to the Dr Schweizter Universal Kinship Fund and half to Friends of the Earth, in support of the environment highlighted in Pope Francis’ new encyclical.

 

CCA Welcomes Pope Francis’ New Encyclical, Laudato Si’ – June 2015

Encyclical Letter

Catholic Concern for Animals warmly welcomes Laudato Si’, as it represents a major paradigm shift in the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the Creation, nature and particularly to the other animals with whom we share this planet.  Pope Francis attacks mankind’s ‘tyrannical anthropocentrism’ and highlights the interrelatedness and interconnectedness of all life.  He has moved the Catholic Church away from anthropocentric theology, which views nature and other animals as being made solely for mankind’s use, and he has reinstated the teachings of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals from whom he has taken his name, on the mystical unity man shares with nature.

This encyclical is not just about climate change, as many commentators are saying, but it is about mankind’s fundamental relationship with the natural world, and it represents a spiritual transformation, in which we must understand that the whole of creation is important to God, not just mankind. Laudato Si’ opens up a whole new era of concern for the earth, the environment and for all God’s creatures.  From now on, mankind must be the caring steward of creation and no longer exercise the tyranny of dominion. Pope Francis says, ‘Our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship’ (LS:116).

The Catholic Vegetarian Society’s 5th National Conference – June 2015

By Alma Massaro

Italian CVA 1The Associazione Cattolici Vegetariani (ACV) held its fifth national meeting in the civic centre of Milan, in Italy, inside the ancient Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio on 6th June 2015. The meeting has been sponsored by the Municipality of Milan, the Archdiocese of Milan and EXPO 2015. The title of the meeting was ‘Non di solo pane vivrà l’uomo ma di ogni parola che esce dalla bocca di Dio – L’alimentazione nel Cristianesimo: la scelta vegetariana’ (‘Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God – Alimentation inside Christianity: the vegetarian choice’).

At the beginning of a warm Italian, almost-summer day, Mons Erminio De Scalzi, Auxiliary Bishop of Milan and Abbott Pastor of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, opened the day introducing the audience to the issues of the meeting. Recalling the Sermon on the Mount, he connected the ‘meekness’ with the wellbeing of the Earth and affirmed: ‘Inside the eyes of the vegetarian there is something of the meek’s gaze’.  Recalling the encyclical Rerum novarum, Mons. De Scalzi presented the need for ‘an ethical food chain’ as both a Christian need and a Christian duty and concluded his foreword by mentioning the communitarian dimension of Christianity: ‘Christianity is the most widespread religion on this Planet. With our choices we could make a big difference’.

Food and Spirituality

Mons. Eugenio Binini, Bishop Emeritus of Massa Carrara, was the first speaker of the day. He offered a series of different meanings of food: a gift that God gives to all His/Her creatures; a language, a way to communicate; a sign of God’s love – ‘the God who provides’; relationship, it expresses our need to be loved; and, last but not least, an expression of our way of being in this world.

The second speaker of the day was father Guidalberto Bormolini, priest of the Comunità dei Ricostruttori and PhD candidate at the Pontificio Ateneo Sant’Anselmo. ‘Food discipline’, he said, ‘is crucial inside spiritual ascesis; spiritualization is not a punishment but a sublime pleasure that permits humans to delight in superior pleasure’. Following Church Fathers, father Bormolini explained food ascesis as the first step to move from carnal love to mystic love.  In this sense food ascesis is not deprivation or punishment but rather a preparation (from Greek, askesis: the physical preparation of the athletes). He concluded recalling Sant’Ambrogio, who affirmed that ascesis is a crucial way to sustain body wellbeing – a body that, as the Bible says, is ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit’.

After the lunch break, a video from Paolo De Benedetti and a talk from Gianfranco Nicora, respectively, a theologian and a member of the Istituto Italiano di Bioetica, introduced the public to the too-often forgotten meaning of creation. Humans, they said, are viceregent of God, therefore their duty is ‘to dress and to keep it’ and not to act as a tyrant, exploiting animals and nature.  The creation in fact is ‘God’s you, that is, His/Her loving project’. In this sense, they concluded, what we eat has a deep religious, but also social, meaning.

The fourth speaker of the day was Mons. Luca Bressan, professor at the Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Settentrionale and the Episcopal Vicar for Culture, Charity, Mission and Social Action of the Archdiocese of Milan. He concentrated his speech on the educational role of food. Food, he explained, is relationship with God – God feeds us; but it is also relationship with our neighbour every time we help them to answer to their needs. Food therefore is solidarity. In this sense it is possible to understand the importance of the educational role of food, which is not only ascesis, and therefore feast, but also banquet. And the banquet, explained Mons. Bressan, permits a deeper understanding of our relationships with others and with God, a fact that emerges from the Eucharist.

A Common Aim

At the end of the day, the conference closed with the presentation of the Italian Associaizone Cattolici Vegetariani (ACV) and Catholic Concern for Animals (CCA). Dr. Manuela Bastianelli is vice-president of ACV, while Mr Chris Fegan is general secretary of CCA. Through the voices of the speakers there clearly emerged the common aim of these organizations, that is to spread a deeper understanding of Christian love towards all God’s creatures.

The conference closed with the Mass inside the Basilica. It had been a brilliant day, inside the charming environment of Sant’Ambrogio at the very heart of Milan.  ֍

Ecumenical Animal Welfare Retreat – May 2015

By Wendy and John Brayshaw

Retreat 5What a joy and privilege to stay at Noddfa again, for what is one of the most important events on our calendar and what a big Thank You is due to Irene Casey for her excellent planning and organising.  Our thanks are also due to Sisters Mary Jo, Patrisse, Patricia, Bernadette and Pauline for looking after us so well during our stay.  We were welcomed not only by the sisters but also by some friendly hens, guinea fowl and an adorable puss called Dash (who rarely dashed anywhere!).

Our speakers were all excellent – those we had had the pleasure of meeting last year and those joining us for the first time this year.  They included the Rev. Prof. Martin Henig (Vice President of ASWA), David Clough (Senior Lecturer in Theology at the University of Chester), Chris Fegan (General Secretary of CCA), Jenny Amphaerus (currently an M.A. linguistics student at Bangor University), and Dr Richard Ryder (Scientific Advisor to CCA).

Many topics and issues were spoken about and discussed, one of the most important being the possible repeal of the Act banning hunting with dogs.  We all earnestly prayed that this would not happen and agreed we must all write to influential people on the subject expressing our strongest of objections.  Repeal would be a green light for animal abuse and cruelty. Other subjects included Christian Stewardship, the question of why Christian Churches are generally so negative with regard to animals, God’s deliverance for animals (future belief and present challenge), animal welfare work being undertaken in Malta, the language of animals and the lessons to be learned from play in the animal kingdom.  Some quotes from speakers included:-

‘CCA and ASWA must not be the world’s best kept secrets.’

‘What God had reason to create, He also had reason to redeem.’

‘As regards factory farming, we are crucifying Christ again, knocking in another nail.’

‘With reference to broiler houses, we are running concentration camps.’

‘Our cruelty to animals is in contempt of the tears falling from our Saviour’s eyes as He hung on the cross.’

‘Hunting is a sin!’

              Something really wonderful we would like to comment on is the superb display boards that Chris organised and which were in view for us to enjoy and meditate on and appreciate throughout the retreat.  Absolutely brilliant.  We hope readers of The Ark and Animal Watch will be able to see pictures of these.

A very welcome newcomer to the Retreat this year was Margaret Pilder.  For several years Margaret has had a passionate dream.  She longs for the creation of a special National Day for Animals in Need in the same way that we already have a special day for Children in Need.  She has been in touch so far with a number of influential people (without much success), so if any reader of The Ark feels inspired to help make this dream become a reality, Margaret would be thrilled to hear from you.  Irene Casey has her address.

On leaving Noddfa, a special place to visit is the wonderful pet cemetery at Bryford, Holywell.  Here we lovingly remembered dear James Thompson, the Animal Padre, who took so many pet services there during his lifetime.  It was an opportunity to give heartfelt thanks and praise for all his work on behalf of our beloved animals.

To conclude, do try and come next year.  We believe you will find the programme and whole experience very encouraging, stimulating and worthwhile. ֍

CCA Letter to the Tablet on Animal Experimentation Published – April 2015

Cardinals Manning & NewmanThe Catholic Church in the UK has always taken the lead against vivisection. Cardinals Newman and Manning both spoke out vigorously against animal experimentation and, in the 1870’s, Cardinal Manning and others founded the National Anti Vivisection Society, which then became the BUAV and is now Cruelty Free International.  Cardinal Manning was also influential in convincing the Government of the day to pass the Animal Cruelty Act of 1876, which controlled vivisection by the Home Office.

However, I am sure that if either Cardinal Newman or Cardinal Manning were alive today then they would be appalled by the modern vivisection ‘industry’. The current use of experimentation on animals is indefensible as the majority of experiments are both not only cruel but also worthless. It is estimated that over 115 million animals a year are used and killed in the name of ‘science’. This is an abomination and there is very little scientific evidence that these experiments actually lead to human medical advancement, and nine out of ten of these experiments fail to produce anything of use.

Most experiments are not even related to medical research and such animal experimentation is an attack on God’s creation. Millions of animals are abused and tortured in experiments every year and these experiments are carried out in laboratories far away from the public gaze and scrutiny. These laboratories which are supposed to conform to high standards to try and minimize the suffering of animals in their care (if such is not an oxymoron) are shown to fail in this regard time and time again and many so called respectable institutions have been investigated by Government for breaches of regulated standards.  These institutions include Imperial College, London and Wickham Research laboratories.  If such supposed ‘high quality’ institutions are failing the most basic checks what is happening in less renowned institutions?

For too long now this disgraceful industry has been allowed to go on unchecked and insufficiently scrutinised behind closed doors away from the public gaze and public understanding. I am convinced that if the facts of what occurred in these laboratories were fully known to the general public there would be a national outcry.

It is a moral outrage and Catholics everywhere should protest and complain about the cruelty bestowed on animals, which are an intrinsic part of God’s creation.

Catholic Concern for Animals stand foursquare with Cardinal Manning and Cardinal Newman on this issue and indeed urge our current Catholic Church leaders both in the UK and abroad to do likewise.

Chris Fegan

General Secretary Catholic Concern for Animals

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