Australasian Catholic writers were challenged to “call it as it is” when it comes to the environment and not to run away from the reality of the calamity the world is facing.

Socio-cultural geographer Professor Robin Kearns issued the challenge to members of the Australasian Catholic Press Association at their conference held in Auckland from August 23-25.

“Do you notice how people call it climate change when it’s about typhoons and global warming when it is about melting polar caps?,” he asked. “We should call it as it is: a climate crisis.”

Professor Kearns was one of three panellists who discussed the conference theme: “Communicating for our Common Home”. The other panellists were Sister of Mercy Bridget Crisp and Rev. Dr Neil Darragh.

The three panellists noted how Catholics still need to hear about how they should be protecting the planet.

“As Catholics, we aren’t different from anyone else in the way we consume,” said Fr Darragh.

Professor Kearns noted there is a “cognitive dissonance” between the people and the issue.

“That’s why environmental stories don’t rate. But it’s good not to turn away from these stories,” he said.

Sr Crisp suggested that people bypass government and go directly to the manufacturers who are damaging the environment.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand director Julianne Hickey said it is important to have the voice of those affected by the environmental crisis heard.

“We have to realise that we’re interconnected. We need to be able to tell those stories and we need to listen to the people on the ground,” she said.

Wellington Cardinal John Dew celebrated the conference Mass on August 24 at Auckland’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.

In his homily, Cardinal Dew said there is a ”summons to a profound interior conversion to renew our relationship with God, with one another and with the created world around us”.

“Laudato Si‘ is about who we all are before God. It’s about the fact that God created this world and entrusted it to us as a gift. We have the responsibility to care for and protect it and all people, all people who are part of God’s creation. We are reminded that protecting human dignity is especially linked to our care for creation,” he said.

St Joseph’s School, Otahuhu, senior choir and dancers made the Mass more memorable for the ACPA participants. School principal Elizabeth Horgan and music director Pamela L’Estrange accompanied the students.