Diocese of Hamilton encouraging churches to give up bottled water

In accordance with Pope Francis's dire warnings about climate change and environmental sustainability, the Diocese of Hamilton is encouraging all churches to give up bottled water.

The initiative supports the current Pope's concerns about environmental sustainability

An inside view of Hamilton's iconic Cathedral of Christ the King. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The Diocese of Hamilton is encouraging all its churches to forego bottled water starting in 2017.

A letter from Bishop Douglas Crosby went out to all the Hamilton parishes recently, and it reads as follows:


Close to five million litres of water are taken from Wellington County daily for a water bottling plant. This extraction of large amounts of water adversely effects the ecological balance of nature over a large area while depriving those who rely on wells of their right to water. Close to seventy-five percent of plastic bottles end up in land fill sites, thus contributing to contamination of the soil for thousands of years. All parishes of the Diocese of Hamilton are encouraged to refrain from using bottled water in church facilities effective January 1, 2017. As stewards of Creation may we be leaders in the responsible use of our sacred mandate.

The letter appears to reference the Nestlé Waters Canada and its Aberfoyle factory, whose use of local groundwater is a hotly debated subject in the area. It says a local bottling plant is "depriving those who rely on wells of their right to water," which echoes sentiments critics have expressed many times.

The Hamilton diocese extends beyond the boundary of the city, encompassing the Wellington county area where the Nestlé factoiry is, and also includes Brant, Halton and Waterloo.

This is a problem not limited to Wellington, but raises the question of care for the earth – our common home.- Msgr . Murray Kroetsch

"The statement was issued for the entire diocese – it is based on information regarding the sale of water to retail companies that will deplete the water resource in the wells for farmers in Wellington," says a statement from Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, the Chancellor of the Hamilton Diocese.

"This is a problem not limited to Wellington, but raises the question of care for the earth – our common home," the statement from Kroetsch continues.  "This initiative is in keeping with Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si."

That encyclical was published last year, and in it, Pope Francis was blunt about the importance of environmental sustainability in the face of global climate change. It's one of several instances where the Pope has been outspoken about the issue, arguing with language similar to the Bishop's letter that Catholics should be stewards of creation. One Hamilton pastor agrees that Catholics are meant to take note.

"It's meant to be taken seriously," said Reverend Father Peter Ciallella, the pastor at Regina Mundi Parish. 

"It's up to each church, in their local reality, whether they can apply the teaching," he said, but he and his parishioners are "definitely on board with" the effort to eliminate plastic bottles.

Earlier this month, Hamilton city council decided to support a study looking at banning bottled water sales at city facilities. London, Ontario has already practiced a bottled water ban in city buildings since 2010.

Ontario plans to increase its charge for water-taking permits for bottled water companies in the new year, but Premier Kathleen Wynne also said she wants a bigger discussion on the future of the entire industry.

dave.beatty@cbc.ca | @dbeatty