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WORLD YOUTH DAY: Solidarity Statement to protect the Verde Island Passage from peril

We are servants of the Church and fellow stewards of Creation now gathered in Lisbon, Portugal in celebration of World Youth Day. This year, we look to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose youthful example - when she “arose and went with haste” when called to serve the Lord’s purpose - inspires us to turn our faith into action.


We issue this statement with awareness that our world is facing an ecological crisis that disproportionately hurts the poor and vulnerable, and harms the only planet we are blessed to call our home. We think of the plight of today’s young people and generations yet to come as they, due to reckless pollution and violation of man against Creation, are bound to confront a future with a catastrophically changing climate. In the same vein, we bring our attention to the opportunities that we who live in the here and now still have to assist them in striving for a livable future - including through keeping guard over our world’s biodiversity and oceans, whose health also sustains that of our Common Home.


We thus take this opportunity to express our solidarity with peoples of the Philippines who are fighting to protect what is known as the “Amazon of the Oceans”, the Verde Island Passage. The VIP is a marine corridor at the heart of the Coral Triangle, housing over 300 coral species, underwater rock canyons and reef formations, and 60% of all known shore fish species in the world. All these make the VIP the most biodiverse marine habitat in the world.


With its rich waters, the VIP provides food, livelihood, and other benefits to millions, and is a treasure that many visit to marvel at the wonders of the Lord’s creation. A paradise like the VIP is, no doubt, an illustration of God’s love and grace, which we must be reminded of our duty to protect and let flourish.


Today, this paradise is in peril from a devastating oil spill caused by the February 28, 2023 sinking of a fuel tanker carrying 900,000 liters of industrial oil. In the spirit of global solidarity, we share our lamentation amid this devastating oil spill. We express our unwavering support to all affected communities, and join them in prayer that leaders of the Philippine government are granted guidance to place utmost importance on devising concrete plans for the recovery and rehabilitation of affected areas, strengthening legal protection of the VIP, and in holding polluters that caused this disaster accountable.


Moreover, we raise alarm over the fleet of fossil fuel projects still being forced upon this ecologically sensitive marine corridor amid this terrible crisis. We enjoin the companies that are building liquefied natural gas and fossil gas power plants and terminals to end the destruction they are causing to the VIP. We understand that such projects will not move forward without finance, and thus enjoin financiers behind gas in the Verde Island Passage, many of them from Europe, the United States, and Japan, to acknowledge that financial resources should be wielded with responsibility and discernment, reflecting our duty to commit to the common good - and thus end any financial links they may have to gas projects and developers in the VIP.


Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life,” wrote His Holiness Pope Francis in Christus Vivit, his exhortation to young people and the entire people of God.


As young people and the community of faith gather to deepen their faith and grow close with Christ with our celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of the importance of safeguarding God's creation for the youth who will inherit the world we leave behind.


May our actions reflect our faith and reverence for all of God's creation.


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