By Nicole Crosbourne – Volunteer
Last week, we were very fortunate to host two talks by Father Peter, an Irish-Columbian father who had spent many years working in Peru. He delivered an inspirational message about the challenges of Laudato Si’, what it really means to be a Catholic, and the question of poverty. Several people from the parish of St. Edmunds of Canterbury, Beckenham attended on Thursday, followed by a large gathering of people at Comboni Missionary Sisters, Chiswick on Friday.
After the talk, everyone was invited to participate in a card-signing later that evening to show their support for CAFOD and this year’s Harvest Fast Day Appeal in El Salvador.
Father Peter, who had spent many years working as a missionary in Lima, Peru became the theological advisor in Latin America. His close collaborations with Gustavo Gutierrez enabled him to support developing programmes, both for social and pastoral action with the help of Peruvian bishops.
The key message of Father Peter’s talk encompassed the challenges of Laudato Si’, and what it really meant to be a Catholic both for our church, and for our world. Using the words of Pope Francis which echoed St. Peter and St. Paul, Father Peter spoke about the question of poverty, and how this burning issue forms the foundations of CAFOD, “I want a church by the poor, for the poor”.
He highlighted the shocking statistic from February by Oxfam International speaking about the distance between the rich and the poor, and the inequalities in today’s society. “Today 50% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 8 people.” He also emphasised how people in our world are being reduced to “nobodies” or a “surplus” as a result of material poverty, and how this is directly against the Christian message. “God is a God of love […] God is life.”
As Christians, we all have the responsibility to understand poverty. As Father Peter mentioned, we should remember both relative and absolute poverty, and reach out to those in need both within and outside of our local communities, believers or non-believers. Father Peter also highlighted our job as Christians to understand the relationship between poverty and our faith, with reference to this year’s Harvest Fast Day Appeal and the overarching message from Laudato Si’ 139. Fighting climate change is our responsibility as stewards for our planet, “If we make of mess of the world, we can fix it”.
Many people were inspired by Father Peter’s message, including Brendan Kilcullen, CAFOD Supporter and monthly donator, and Sister Helen who had moved to the Parish in November, working with Housing Justice for Asylum Seekers. ”I came to hear about the work of CAFOD. I was interested in the stations of the cross CAFOD used to illustrate asylum seekers. I wanted to use these within my own parish and see how CAFOD is helping people to grow in faith” (Sister Helen).
Following some questions, Libby Abbott, CAFOD Campaigns Team, spoke on behalf of CAFOD about our latest ‘Power to Be’ campaign and the importance of renewable energy. Everyone was encouraged to sign cards in order to raise awareness the campaign and the effects of climate change.
Overall, we are extremely grateful for all the work and continued support Father Peter has given to CAFOD over the last 30 years. We wish him all the best in his work within the church and as the Board of REPAM, the church network for Pan-Amazon.
To engage in our Power To Be campaign, you can sign our petition online. Also, you can order your own action cards at our shop to be signed within your parish, or organise a Power To Be Liturgy to continue to raise awareness, pray and spread the message.