Mauritius cardinal praises outpouring of solidarity after oil spill

A volunteer attempts to clean spilled oil at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, Aug. 12, 2020. The oil came from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground on a reef. (CNS photo/Sumeet Mudhoo, L'Express via Reuters)

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Cardinal Maurice Piat of Port-Louis, Mauritius, has praised public responses to an oil spill that devastated the island’s coastline, as one prominent lay Catholic demanded “honest information” about the disaster.

“Numerous families are afflicted by a pestilential and persistent odor — fishermen and all those living from the sea are suffering particularly, while ecological treasures in our coastal bays and islets are gravely damaged,” said Cardinal Piat.

“Amid the pain shared by so many, I salute the beautiful outpouring of active and enterprising solidarity now showing itself in a bid to save what might still be saved.”

The 79-year-old cardinal issued the message Aug. 11 as desperate efforts continued to contain oil from the Japanese bulk carrier, MV Wakashio, which ran aground on a coral reef off Pointe d’Esny. The ship flew a Panamanian flag, which allows it to avoid marine regulations imposed by Japan.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

Cardinal Piat said he was encouraged to see “civil society awakening” with a “fine ecological conscience,” in ways that he said should be “taken into account by economic and political decision-makers.”

However, a senior lay Catholic warned that the Indian Ocean country’s unique marine ecosystem, one of the few remaining worldwide, looked set to suffer lasting damage and said the disaster left “many unanswered questions” about the Japanese tanker’s presence.

“This ship ran aground in the worst possible place — a habitat for many protected species, when our country was still closed to tourists because of COVID-19 — it’s an ecological catastrophe,” Martine Lajoie, assistant chief editor of the church’s La Vie Catholique weekly, told Catholic News Service Aug. 14.

“But Mauritius is facing another crisis as well, when those running the country are not trusted. Even if they say truthful things, people won’t believe them,” she added.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

The tanker, owned by Nagashiki Shipping, became stranded July 25 off the southeast coast, with 3800 tons of heavy oil and 200 tons of diesel, and was reported breaking up Aug. 3.

Pravind Jugnauth, prime minister of Mauritius, said Aug. 13 most of the remaining fuel had now been transferred to shore by helicopter.

However, Greenpeace Africa said the oil slick had spread over 10 square miles by Aug. 11, leaving thousands of rare species “at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution.”

Father Jean-Pierre Arlanda, rector of Our Lady of the Angels Parish at Mahebourg, one of the worst-affected ports, told a radio station local Catholics had “mobilized immediately,” using knowledge and skills, as well as staging a “cycle of prayer and solidarity.”

Lajoie said the crisis had strengthened religious and cultural ties on the island, adding that its Interreligious Council would stage a national interfaith prayer service Aug. 16.

However, she cautioned oil was still flowing from the Japanese carrier and was certain to force the closure of Mauritius’ Blue Bay Marine Park and other internationally known areas, as well as wrecking the livelihoods of those dependent on tourism.

“We also need honest information about who bears responsibility for this disaster, at a time when our economic situation was already difficult,” she added. “What will happen to Mauritius now that its lagoons and beaches are wrecked?”

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Evo Morales said Pope Francis called him to congratulate him on his party’s win after exit polls showed that the former Bolivian president’s top pick, Luis Arce, would win the general election.
Ricardo da Silva, S.J.October 20, 2020
Students at Boston College pray the Examen, while wearing masks and engaging in social distancing. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Vecchio and Emily Egan)
The coronavirus pandemic has caused campus ministries around the country to reassess how to best minister to their students.
Kevin Christopher RoblesOctober 20, 2020
In keeping with Italian law, all of the religious leaders, including Pope Francis, wore a mask except when delivering their speeches, which they did while keeping a distance from those listening.
Sister Campbell, the social justice activist made famous by headlining “Nuns on the Bus” tours, announced she will step down from her post leading Network Lobby this March.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2020