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Torreciudad, Spain -- Science, Religion, and the Environment

Scientists and religious leaders from 15 countries and 8 religions participated in the “International Seminar on Science and Religion Cooperating for Environmental Care,” which was held at the shrine of Torreciudad. The seminar reflected on the role of science and religion in caring for the environment. The point of departure for the dialogue was the concept of “ecological conversion” in the encyclical Laudato si’.

Pope Francis sent a message saying that he hoped this encounter would help to “further scientific and interreligious dialogue on care for our common home” and foster “joint efforts to promote greater solidarity for the good of each and every human being.”

In the course of the presentations, Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, president of the Pontifical Academy of Science, stressed that care for the environment “is a point of encounter not only for interreligious dialogue, but also for the common work of the different religions.” 

Peter H. Raven, an international expert in botany from the University of Washington, said that “science explains to us the problems the environment faces, but the ethical visions of the major religious traditions can guide our efforts to create a sustainable world living in peace.” 

The director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Hillary Marlow, stressed that “science alone is unable to solve the environmental problem since this has to be approached from the perspective of values that the major religions have spoken about for many centuries.”

Other religious leaders taking in the event were Professor Wael Farouq, president of the Tawasul Islamic Cultural Center for Inter-civilizational Dialogue; Rabbi Yonatan Neril of Jerusalem, founder and director of the Interreligious Center for Sustainable Development; the Buddhist monk Tsunma Karma Chimey Lhatso; the Hindu Swamini Umananda; the Bulgarian Orthodox Archdeacon Petar Gramatikov; and the Procurator General of the Cistercian Order, Father Lluc Torcal. Participants included people from Hinduism, Buddhism, Shiite Islam, Judaism, and Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic Christians.

Upon finishing the conference, organized by the Tatiana Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno Foundation and the Social Promotion of Culture Foundation, a declaration was signed for the protection of the environment. 

The choice of Torreciudad as the sight for the seminar was in part due to the natural beauty of the setting. None of the participants had previously visited the shrine and they all praised the harmony between the surrounding environment and the architecture, and the care taken to preserve the natural setting.

Romana, No. 62, January-June 2016, pag. 160-161.