Holy water: The Catholic Church Restores Its Relevance to the Natural World

| September 25, 2000

Holy water: The Catholic Church Restores Its Relevance to the Natural World

The Catholic church tackles the problem of the deteriorating Columbia River watershed that once provided a home for 16 million salmon and now houses only 700,000 annually. Water, used in the Catholic church for such ceremonies as baptism, is considered both sacred and alive and helped to instigate this revival of the church's connection to the environment.

Jim Robbins of the 30-year-old Colorado-based publication High Country News writes about the eight Roman Catholic bishops behind the movement. The prelates, who lead 1.2 million parishioners in the Northwest, penned a 65-page letter that encourages people 'to forge a new environmental and spiritual awareness about the Columbia River watershed.'

The bishops note, 'There are problems and injustices in the watershed--Salmon, the indicator species of the life community, are becoming extinct, endangered or threatened. Greed, ignorance, irresponsibility and abuse of economic and political power cause problems and injustices.'

While this is a step in the right direction, some activists want a more active stance. The executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission wants to see the church support the breaching of four dams within the watershed. -- Sara V. Buckwitz
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