The Pope, the Climate and the SDGs: how CWS played a role in all three

Rev. John McCullough | September 30, 2015

The Rev. John L. McCullough at the March on Climate Change Photo: Megan Cagle / CWS

The Rev. John L. McCullough at the March on Climate Change Photo: Megan Cagle / CWS

In the span of 24 hours, our common mission was upheld in three major events this month.

First, I was honored to have been invited to a White House reception for Pope Francis as the Holy Father paid his first visit to the U.S. The Pontiff’s message of caring for people and creation more than profit and politics is obviously resonant with the CWS mission. We have shared common themes in seeking a warmer relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. We have long sought justice for the poor and marginalized, who often bear the expense of a world driven by the blinding power of power and profit. And we share the same call to care for what Pope Francis so aptly calls “our common home,” in calling for more stringent attention to be paid to climate change and our role in addressing it.

Climate change is exactly what beckoned me to stay in Washington, D.C. the evening of the Pope’s welcome, September 23. Together with a cast of faith leaders, including CWS Board Chair, the Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, I was honored to help kick off a 2-day interfaith vigil to remember those impacted by our changing climate. All too often, the poor and the marginalized – the very people we, as CWS are called to serve every day – pay the price of the world’s inaction on curbing emissions and other pollutants that are changing “our common home.” That’s why I felt it important to agree to become the North American ambassador for ACT Alliance’s climate justice effort leading up to the U.N.’s Global Conference on Climate Change, COP21 in Paris in November.

The U.N. General Assembly began in earnest at the same time Pope Francis was landing in Washington. I left the climate vigil early for a late-night drive back to New York, so I could speak at the World Bank Group’s Interfaith event to mobilize action on the Sustainable Development Goals the very next day. You may remember the SDGs aim to pick up where the Millennium Development Goals leave off. I’ve been honored to be a part of a collective of faith leaders assembled by the World Bank to inject a faith voice into the SDG planning effort, urging accountability and action among the global community to improve the lives of the poor and marginalized. At the same time, CWS Executive VP Maurice Bloem represented CWS at a host of meetings and panels tied to the U.N. General Assembly, ensuring the daily work of our staff is given voice in this, the 70th gathering of the global community.

My role in all of these meetings, vigils, receptions and services, is twofold. Foremost, I feel a deep and abiding commitment to those we serve in bringing their voices to the tables of power that can hold so much sway in improving their lives. I feel equally important in being your voice in those same venues. I am grateful for our shared service in making a better world, which is just as important in the rather sterile confines of receptions and panels as it is in the grit and sweat of our work in the field. Thank you for sharing your service.

The Rev. John L. McCullough is the CEO of CWS.