Campion Symposium on the Environment Charts New Paths Forward

(Pictured: Symposiasts pose for a group photograph in front of Campion Hall) 


Campion Hall recently hosted an international, interdisciplinary symposium devoted to the topic of ‘Connecting Ecologies’.  The Symposium was  held from 6-9 December 2017 and involved some forty scholars and experts from several countries who de-voted their widespread learning and varied experience to seeking a shared dynamic approach to the ecological challenges facing humankind.  Accepting the growing realisation and near-universal conviction that we are ‘all together now’ in our globe’s environmental and ecological crisis, and stimulated by Pope Francis’s acclaimed encyclical on the subject, Laudato Si’, Campion Hall determined that the time was ripe--in biblical terms, the kairos had come--for a collective response.  It decided to convene an international symposium of recognised authorities to call on all the human sciences and resources to identify and explore the numerous ecologies, material, physical, animal, cosmic, social and spiritual, which pervade God’s creation, and to attempt to integrate them into a single vision and a mission for the future which the human species could accept wholeheartedly on behalf of all creation. 

As the symposium’s organising committee explained, ‘while the encyclical’s forthright and urgent messages were widely welcomed by politicians, academics and scientists alike, there exists considerable space for interdisciplinary debate on how best to formulate and implement the new societal models that are needed to tackle the problems that face us and to develop a new mode of ecological thinking.’ And as the event took off, the Master of Campion, Rev Dr James Hanvey SJ, informed readers of The Tablet (9.12.17) that, ‘The environment is a major issue of our time and Jesuits have been talking about it extensively. We thought the best way forward was to offer a lead by bringing together climatologists, scientists, theologians and lawyers – to get people thinking in a connected way.' 

‘Our common home

The symposium began by addressing what lay behind Pope Francis’ s arresting phrase ‘our common home’.  Concern was expressed for the conserving and enhancing of global resources, with reference to conservation, food and climate adaptation; and attention was focused on ‘ an integral ecology’.  Consideration moved to the promise of science and technology and to global approaches to connected ecologies, in contrast with the impacts of resource degradation, including conflicts, poverty, and the responsibilities of the West.  The roles of business and government were then scrutinised to explore the redesigning of trade and the ecological leadership that are required for the 21st century and beyond.  Finally, thought was given to resources for the future, including ecological education, ecological spirituality, a new community of understanding and acting, and a concern for attitudes and ecological ways of living.

The challenge of the limited space available in Campion Hall for such a large number of invited participants was successfully overcome by holding the major meetings next door in the Hall’ s good neighbour, Pembroke College, with the public opening and closing sessions being held in the splendid Pichette Auditorium, and the closed general sessions taking place in its Harold Lee Room.  Smaller rooms for breakout discussion groups were available in the University’ s Catholic Chaplaincy, on the other side of Campion.  All meals were professionally provided in the Hall, and its bedroom accommodation was augmented by the University’s Rewley House.

Nor was the aesthetic ignored. Mediaeval Scholastic philosophers identified the transcendental attributes of every being as not only one, true and good, but also beautiful (pulchrum). It was appropriate, therefore, that as a midway event in the symposium a public afternoon recital was provided at the neighbouring Christ Church Cathedral, courtesy of its Dean and Chapter, to accompany and ease the symposiasts’ labours.

Richness that money cant buy

The recital included the reading of passages from Pope Francis’s encyclical which was followed by the premier of a musical setting of St Francis’s canticle by the Italian-born and London-based composer, Luca Uggias. Also included were God’s Grandeur and The Windhover, both by the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins and read by Francesca Forrestal.  Music by Palestrina and Uggias was provided by a choral group led by Tom Hammond-Davies, and the various organ pieces were performed by Hamish Dustagheer, the Maestro di Cappella of St John’s Co-Cathedral in  Malta and Musical Fellow of Campion Hall. These included Bonnet’s Matin Provençal, Bach’s G Minor Fantasia and Fugue, and the premier of Clothed in White. This last voluntary commemorates the English Catholic and Protestant martyrs at and after the Reformation who were connected with the University of Oxford, and it was written for the occasion by  Christopher Willcock, the Australian Jesuit who was last term Composer in Residence at Campion Hall. The recital concluded with the singing of the plainchant invocation of the Holy Spirit of creation, Veni, Creator Spiritus, and as recessional the Toccata composed on this by Gaston Litaize. 

Thanks for supporting the Symposium were ac-corded by the Master of the Hall to the British Jesu-it Province, the William Loschert Fund, the Theology Faculty of the University of Oxford, the Dowd Family Trust, Campion Hall and Professor John Barton. 

The Symposium proceedings will be published in a future issue of The Heythrop Journal. A published collection of extended essays on the subject is also planned.


--text courtesy of Campion News. See the full issue by clicking over to our "News" page.