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Statement  on Mountain Top Removal in Eastern Kentucky

December 10, 2002

Dear Friends in Christ,

We write you on the occasion of your ecumenical gathering for a "Prayer on the Mountain" in Letcher County, Kentucky. Our other obligations prevent us from traveling to the mountains to be with you today, but we send our prayers of support and words of encouragement.

We know from people ministering in Appalachia and media reports about the environmental and human devastation caused by the abusive strip mine practice known as "mountain top removal." This practice can damage the foundations of homes and destroys the wells of people living in nearby communities. It dumps millions of tons of earth and rock into valleys ruining springs and head waters of creeks essential to the animal and plant life for miles downstream. It can destroy graveyards and home places and alters communities reverenced by generations of families who trace their ties to that land. We understand that McRoberts itself has suffered five devastating floods in 18 months, and many other areas of Appalachia have faced similar destruction.

As we reflect on Sacred Scripture we believe that the care of creation represents a spiritual act. We remember that God finished the work of creation and "found it very good" (Gen. 1:31.) Then God put humanity in the Garden of Eden, a symbol of the whole world, "to cultivate and care for it" (Gen. 2:15.) Creation reflects the beauty of God and humanity becomes a co-gardener with God.

In addition, since the world belongs to all, decisions about the world’s use must be determined by a concern for the common good of the whole human family. Pope John Paul II joining his voice with a growing chorus of ethical people throughout the world proclaims the right to a safe environment must eventually be included in an updated U.N. Charter of Human Rights. That your "Prayer on a Mountain" takes place on December 10, International Human Rights Day, symbolically connects the respect for the earth with the protection of our human community.

We pray that society will produce its necessary goods and services without destroying God’s gift of creation. Unfortunately, the practice of economics frequently exploits both the land and the workers in a rush for quick profits. Society must reject the false dichotomy of jobs versus the environment and creatively find ways allowing workers to earn their livelihoods while respecting creation. May God shed blessings on you as you pray for the restoration of creation and the uplift of your communities.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., Archbishop of Louisville         

John J. McRaith, Bishop of Owensboro

Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington   

Reverend Robert J. Nieberding, Lexington Administrator

Catholic Conference of Kentucky

1042 Burlington Lane

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

502-875-4345 502-875-2841 Fax cckstaffATccky.org

Last modified: October, 2010