Interfaith community to discuss protection of coastal waters


PROVIDENCE — Draped in hidden splendor beneath the shimmering blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean lie gorges deeper than the Grand Canyon and mountain peaks as tall as the Rockies.

In an area known as Cashes Ledge, located about 80 miles east of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, scientists continue to identify new species where rare, cold water coral reefs more than 1,000 years old are home to one of the most biodiverse areas of the Atlantic.

The area is home to the deepest and largest kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard, as well as such rare species as the Atlantic wolfish and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right and humpback whales.

It is in this area that Save the Bay, the Rhode Island Council of Churches, Creation Justice Ministries and Interfaith Oceans support the establishment of the first proposed marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The honor would raise awareness of the importance of protecting all coastal waters, including those where fishermen from across New England ply their trade, a vocation which tens of thousands of people depend upon for food.

On Sunday, March 12, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., members of the faith community are invited to attend “Protect God’s Creation: New England Ocean Treasures,” at Save the Bay, 100 Save the Bay Drive, in order to learn more about God’s wondrous creation off the state’s coast, and how to protect it for future generations by supporting its designation as a national marine monument.

The goal of the initiative is to permanently protect New England’s ocean treasure for future generations. The movement seeks the support of faith-filled people eager to heed the moral call to care for God’s creation.

Following a speaking program, Father Andrew George, protopresbyter at the Church of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Parish of Greater Providence, will perform a traditional Blessing of the Waters in an outdoor ceremony slated to last about 30 minutes.

Marybeth Lorbiecki, author of “Following St. Francis: John Paul II’s Call for Ecological Action,” and director of Interfaith Oceans, promoted the event last week in an interview on Boston’s Catholic TV.

“It will affect the generations of fishermen to come to preserve these treasures along the coast,” she said of the importance of establishing the monument for all who live near and depend upon the bounty of the ocean each day.

In an interview from her home in Wisconsin, Lorbiecki also spoke about how the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis and care for the environment are connected.

“One of the things the pope is really emphasizing is that care of creation is actually care of the poor,” she said, noting how the planet is a gift from God.

“We’re tenants on this land. God made it good and we’re not doing so well [with it],” Lorbiecki said.

She noted that it is the poor that are the first to be hurt by environmental degradation and devastation.

“They have no place to go. They become refugees,” she said.

Lorbiecki also stresses that climate change, which is producing a noticeable change in the world’s oceans, is not just about the future, it’s also about the present.

“The Year of Mercy is calling us to repentance, individually and communally, and saying to us ‘Let’s have a sense of God and Christ in creation.’”

Space for the program is limited and participants are encouraged to register early.

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