Reflections on Development and Peace

by Terry O'Toole

October 2, 2019


The words “awe” and “wonder” are employed at least 14 times in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. Echoing the teaching of Rabbi Heschel that without awe the universe becomes a marketplace for us, the pope teaches that “if we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder...our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters.”

So long as we are in touch with “wonder and awe” we recognize a “continuing revelation of the divine” in the smallest and largest forms within nature.

We must first honour and cherish all creation as an expression or mirror of the Divine Beauty. “This, then, is salvation, when we marvel at the beauty of created things and praise the beautiful providence of their Creator,” wrote Meister Eckhart.

(Matthew Fox, Daily Meditations, May 2019)

Next week begins the Vatican’s synod: “The Amazon: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology on the Amazon.” This will be the first bishops’ meeting where integral ecology will be applied to a specific place in Creation, a landmark for the Church. The synod runs Oct 6-27.


September 23, 2019


Vatican City – The international community must ramp up its efforts if it expects to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, Pope Francis said.

In a video message sent Sept. 23 to participants at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, the pope said that while the 2015 Paris climate agreement raised awareness and the “need for a collective response,” the commitments made by countries “are still very weak and are far from achieving the objectives set.”

“It is necessary,” he said, “to ask if there is a real political will to allocate greater human, financial and technological resources to lessen the negative effects of climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations who suffer the most.”

According to its website, the goal of the UN Climate Action Summit is “to ensure the global focus on climate gains momentum,” as well as to ensure that “there is scrutiny on the investments countries are making in fossil fuels vs renewable.”

Calling climate change “one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time,” the pope said that states have a duty to fight against it and despite the weak response, “a window of opportunity is still open.”

“We are still in time. Let us not let it close. Let us open it with our determination to cultivate integral human development, to ensure a better life for future generations. It is their future, not ours,” the pope said.

Encouraging the participants at the summit, Francis said that the climate crisis is just not an environmental issue, “but a challenge of civilization in favour of the common good.”

National Catholic Reporter, September 23, 2019


July 11, 2019

"We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny.
We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Toward this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of the earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations."
- Preamble of the Earth Charter


July 3, 2019


God, we pray that Your Spirit may rule over all things.
May Your Spirit rule over kings and presidents, over prime ministers and generals, over CEO’s and party bosses, over the legislature and over the bureaucrats, over all citizens.
May Your Spirit guide us on the way of peace, on the way of honest dialogue, on the way of reconciliation between peoples, on the way of disarmament and justice, on the way of freedom and life for all.
May Your Spirit lead us on the journey of blessings shared with all, on the journey of educational opportunity for all our children, on the adventure of research and study that helps all women and men, on the road to meaningful work for all people, on the path of solidarity and love between all our brothers and sisters.
May Your Spirit help us to speak up with courage, to share what we have and what we are, to challenge the powers that be, to offer a message of liberation and life.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


June 21, 2019

World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

Of the 92, 400 refugees who were resettled last year, Canada took in 28, 100 and had the second highest rate of refugees who gained citizenship, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s global report.
Development & Peace-Caritas Canada continues to pay tribute to the courage, resilience and dignity of forced migrants, of whom there are now 70.8 million around the world.
We can help end forced migration by joining Development & Peace’s Share the Journey campaign by signing the petition at:, which invites Parliament to do more to address the root causes of forced migration, i.e., war, climate change, unregulated resource extraction in poor countries.
The Honourable Helene Laverdiere, MP for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, presented D&P petitions in the House of Commons on June 12, 2019. On May 15, 2019, a delegation of the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa region Catholic school students delivered more than 10,000 cards to their MP’s on Parliament Hill.
Canadian Catholics are doing solidarity walks to symbolically replicate the arduous journeys that most migrants make on foot. Together, we have walked more than 40,075 km – equal to the circumference of the earth – and we are not done. We hope to have a local walk in Antigonish County this summer.
The measure of our faith is the compassion with which we treat the widow, the orphan and the stranger – biblical symbols of vulnerability.


June 11, 2019

The third social encyclical, Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress), was promulgated by Pope John XXIII in May, 1961. Pope John embraced a pastoral opening to the entire world and sought unity and equality among all peoples regardless of their religious, cultural and political beliefs. His ecumenical vision permeated the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.
Mater et Magistra enumerates the economic, scientific and political developments that have taken place since Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. This document points out that there is not just a disparity between rich and poor classes anymore – there is disparity between rich and poor nations – millions live in poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America; came out in the context of nuclear proliferation, automation, space exploration and improved communication technologies; highlights the plight of the world’s farmers; condemns the waste and threat arising from the arms race - arms spending takes money from small scale food production, housing, healthcare and living wages; peace would be possible if economic and trade imbalances among nations were righted; in giving aid to poor countries, wealthy nations should respect the latter’s culture and refrain from domination; “internationalizes” social teaching by addressing, for the first time, the plight of non-industrialized nations; says all Catholics should be reared on Catholic social teaching using the social action motto “see, judge, act” as a model of lay involvement.


June 4, 2019

The next social encyclical was Quadragesimo Anno (Reconstruction of the Social Order), authored by Pope Pius XI, May, 1931. This document details the positive impact Rerum Novarum has had on the social order over 40 years. It arrives at a crucial time in history: Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) has to deal with complex political issues following the First World War: hunger and destruction across Europe; the Russian Revolution; the decline of democracy and the rise of fascism in Spain, Germany and Italy; the Great Depression has been wreaking economic havoc for 2 years, so a new response is expected from the church, civil authorities and workers unions. Unfettered capitalism has destroyed itself with governments being “slaves” serving its greed. The encyclical warns against a communist solution as communism condones violence and abolishes private property. Labour and capital need each other. A just wage is necessary so workers can acquire private property. The state has the responsibility to reform the social order since the Depression makes it obvious that economic affairs cannot be left to free enterprise alone. Public intervention in labour-management disputes is approved; international economic cooperation urged; “subsidiarity” is introduced, meaning: problems should try to be resolved on the local level first; QA expands Rerum Novarum’s focus on poor workers to include the structures that oppress them.


May 28, 2019

One of the objectives of the Antigonish Diocesan Renewal Congress held in Membertou, October 2013, was outreach to parishes with the Church’s social encyclicals. These teachings have their roots in Genesis where we see that we are a vital component of Creation, interconnected to all, complete with rights and responsibilities for the care and protection of the whole community of life.
Development & Peace was part of the Canadian Church’s response to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples), in 1967.
The first social encyclical was Rerum Novarum (The Condition of Labour) May 15, 1891, by Pope Leo XIII. The main point was the promotion of human dignity through just distribution of wealth. The existing inequality created a decline of morality as shown in alcohol consumption, prostitution and divorce. Workers have basic human rights that adhere to Natural Law, which says all human are equal, with the right to work, own private property, receive a just wage and to organize into workers associations. Employers and employees each have rights and responsibilities: while the worker should not riot to create conflict with the employer, the employer should maintain an environment respecting workers’ dignity.
The Church has the right to speak out on social issues. Her role is to teach social principles and bring social classes together. The state’s role is to create a just society through laws that preserve rights.
THE CONTEXT IN 1891: widespread poverty and rural community and family disintegration because of the Industrial Revolution. Workers were being exploited by profit-hungry employers. Public authorities are not protecting the rights of the poor.
TRIVIA: In 1841, while still a Cardinal, Leo XIII started a savings bank for the poor. He had previously been named a monsignor for his bravery during a cholera epidemic.


May 23, 2019

In November of 2018, Scarboro Missions completed 100 dynamic years of a labour of love and blessing. Before closing its home at 2685 Kingston Road and moving its members to Presentation Manor in Scarborough, the Society published its history, and in that anniversary issue proclaimed its Ecological Mission Statement:
"All Creation is a revelation of God, from the shining stars and sun and the vast sky and waters, to the myriad diversity within the community of life - plants, animals, people and other life forms. God loves all of Creation and called it 'very good' (Gen 1:31). As bearers of the image of God we are called, within our capabilities, to collaborate with God in loving and caring for Creation and especially for all that suffer. 'We know that all Creation is groaning in labour pains even until now; and not only Creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit' (Rom 8:22-23).
Today, life on earth is threatened by an escalating ecological crisis - climate change, deforestation, pollution, species extinction, and more. Ecological destruction, poverty and injustice are all intertwined in social structures and lifestyles which value individual status over community well-being, possessions over relationships and profits over the common good of all life. We believe God is calling the human family to conversion, to a profound respect for all life; to a mending of our broken relationships with our sisters and brothers, with the community of life , and with the Creator.
We are grateful for the many committed people around the world working generously to protect the integrity of Creation. At the same time we know that more efforts are needed. We belong to an interdependent community of life on earth. Our actions affect the earth's ability to sustain life. God ever invites us to 'choose life(Deut 30:19), to restore right relationships and to choose a way of life based on solidarity and sufficiency rather than exploitation and excess. We believe God intended the human family to use wisely and distribute justly the bounty of God's earth so that all people may live with dignity both now and in the future and so that the community of life may flourish. Deep gratitude to God for the wonder of Creation and the precious gift of life moves us to consistent action.
'I have come that they may have life and have it to the full' (John 10:10). Jesus Christ lived simply and showed the way of life and love, service and sacrifice. We desire to follow Jesus more closely and trust in the creative, redeeming and sustaining love of God. Scarboro Missions seeks:
• to live simply and more sustainably in solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples of the world as well as with the whole community of life;
• to work on behalf of social and ecological justice."



May 11, 2019

Development & Peace has promoted Share Lent and Fall Action campaigns on land, water, agriculture and climate. These efforts have harmonized with Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’- On Care for Our Common Home.
The teachings contained in the encyclical are reminders of the teachings of Indigenous elders. Oren Lyons is an elder of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Iroquois or Six Nations) who has been involved in the global struggle for recognition of Indigenous rights at the United Nations. In a 1984 article, he states:
“We native people understand that all living things are one large extended family and that we therefore should be working together in all 4 corners of the world...We say there exists a common interest that should determine the future of the world. The common interest should be, as stated by my people, the welfare of the seventh generation to come. Every decision should be made in reference to how that decision will affect the seventh generation in the future...The destructive effects of short term thinking can already be seen in the damage inflicted on our environment...water is the source of life.” (Oren Lyons, “Spirituality, Equality and Natural Law,” in Pathways to Self-Determination – University of Toronto Press, 1984)
These Indigenous teachings parallel the encyclical of Pope Francis. Indigenous people are taught that all life comes from the Creator, and there is only one right in this world: the right to life. The rest of our life is a path of responsibility. (From: ‘Living Out Laudato Si’ – A Commentary and Practical Resource for Canadian Catholics’ – Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace)



May 1, 2019

Bishop Brian Dunn is guiding a diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September. Sadly, there is a humanitarian crisis in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Millions of Palestinians who live under the Israeli occupation have no work, have lost their land and are separated from their families. The Cremisan Valley, one of the district’s last green areas, has vast stretches of recreational and agricultural lands. The land is cultivated well, the old terraces are carefully maintained and the people grow olives, fruit trees and grapes to produce Cremisan wine. On weekends, children play in the olive groves and families meet to spend time in nature.
This idyllic valley is in immediate danger of being destroyed. In 2006, the Israeli military command issued an order to seize Palestinian lands in the valley for the purpose of building a separation wall to expand and connect two Israeli settlements. The Annexation Wall has put 58 mainly Christian families and two religious orders in danger of losing their land. The Salesian Sisters primary school, which provides education to more than 400 children, will be surrounded by military presence and could be isolated from the community it serves. The Sisters teach values of justice and peaceful coexistence, but the Wall makes it harder for them to impart these teachings, which are critically needed in this occupied land.
Development & Peace’s partner, the Society of St. Yves, has been representing and accompanying the Sisters in its struggle since 2010. With support from rulings from the International Court of Justice, the legal team at this Jerusalem-based Catholic human rights centre has been petitioning the Israeli courts to stop the wall construction in the Cremisan Valley and the surrounding community of Beit Jala. The Society of St. Yves knows this is one struggle of many in caring for the human rights of the most marginalized of people. They know that ultimately, the situation needs a political solution that ensures that all people are treated as equals.

For more information on the Cremisan case, read the St. Yves report: The Last Nail in Bethlehem’s Coffin: The Annexation Wall in Cremisan