The diocese of Miao, India sits in rich, mountainous forest terrain on the edge of the Himalayas. Most of its residents are tribal artisans whose livelihood is solely dependent on the local natural resources and the forest’s produce. So the release of the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, hit particularly close to home for the diocese, which falls in India's furthest northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. In recent years, the diocese has already been promoting eco-initiatives focused on raising awareness and protecting forests. One part of the effort encourages gifting plant saplings instead of flower bouquets during celebrations. Other efforts emphasize preserving cultural heritage and customs, or fighting the exploitation of the forest that sometimes comes with development. Now, the people of Miao are looking at other ways to put the Pope’s words into practice. A total of five study days in July were selected to examine the concrete application of the Pope’s encyclical in the specific circumstance of the diocese, Fr. Felix Anthony, the Miao diocese's head of communications, told CNA July 22. To begin, a workshop was held at the diocesan center in Miao, attracting some two dozen priests and religious. Addressing participants at the initial workshop, Bishop George Pallipparambil emphasized, “The world is our Common Home and we must all work for its care and protection.” The Miao bishop warned against a general insensitiveness to environmental issues throughout the region. “God has created the world and gave it to us to till it and keep it, and not to use it for selfish motives, driven by profit and greed,” he said. Care for the environment “does not just mean planting trees... caring for our common home means protection of the Earth and all it contains, especially the needy and the poor,” Bishop Pallipparambil continued. He challenged the participants to be open to the teachings of Pope Francis in order to help the faithful in the parishes understand the teachings of the Church. Other seminars were planned for various parts of the diocese, including Kumari, Tezu, Roing, and the remote township Khonsa in the Tirap District of east Arunachal Pradesh. Fr. Anthony said that the sessions have opened up thought-provoking insights on environmental issues and discussions on concrete solutions. “I feel very happy that I was able to attend the one of the study days of Laudato Si, as this has helped me to understand our Holy Father's concern for our common home,” said participant Fr. Shoby of the Changlang Parish of the diocese. “I’ll go back to the mission with determination to protect our common home, and I will also help people understand the importance of its care.” The Diocese of Miao was established in 2005, and Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Pallipparambil, a Salesian, as its first bishop. It is estimated that the total diocesan population is roughly 500,000, with Christians — most of them Catholic — comprising some 19 percent of the population. The diocese is home to 83,500 Catholics across an area of nearly 17,000 square miles. The largest religious group is Hindus, with large minorities of Buddhists and traditional religions, as well as small numbers of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains. Some regional parts are still rooted under animistic religious rituals and practices.
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