“We are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters”, Pope Francis reminded humanity in a message today for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in which he also urged the world “to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us”.
– An invitation “to heal the damaged relationships essential to the entire fabric of life”
Recalling the theme of the 2020 ‘Season of Creation’ that begins today and runs until October 4 – “Jubilee for the Earth” – the Pope wrote that “a Jubilee is a time to turn back in repentance”.
“We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life”, Francis insisted.
The pontiff continued by saying that the biblical notion of the jubilee also “calls us to think once again of our fellow human beings, especially the poor and the most vulnerable”, and that much “not in competitive scramble but in joyful fellowship, supporting and protecting one another”.
“A Jubilee is a time for setting free the oppressed and all those shackled in the fetters of various forms of modern slavery, including trafficking in persons and child labour”, the Pope implored.
– “Our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits”
In his message today, the Pope also warned that “the disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and [the] unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption”.
Continuing on with that theme of environmental destruction, Francis cautioned that “our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits”.
“Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world. Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!”, the Pope denounced.
Returning to the relationship between the environment and the Covid-19 pandemic, the pontiff recalled that “the crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living”.
“Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared”, Francis celebrated.
“The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads”, the pontiff went on.
“We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving.
“We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods”, the Pope highlighted.
– Pleas for debt relief for two-thirds countries, “more ambitious” climate targets
Moving on to a series of practical and political recommendations for the ‘Season of Creation’ and beyond, Pope Francis invited humanity “to re-establish equitable societal relationships, restoring their freedom and goods to all and forgiving one another’s debts”.
“We should not forget the historic exploitation of the global South that has created an enormous ecological debt, due mainly to resource plundering and excessive use of common environmental space for waste disposal. It is a time for restorative justice”, the Pope clamoured, renewing his appeal “for the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19”.
Another urgent petition the Pope directed today to politicians was measures to mitigate climate change: a matter he said “of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency”.
“We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us”, Francis stressed, urging that “we need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world”.
In that sense, the pontiff invited nations to set “more ambitious” targets to reduce emissions, ahead of the “important” COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November 2021.
Other urgent requests the Pope made of political leaders today included a plea to back the UN call to safeguard 30% of the earth as protected habitats by 2030 “in order to stem the alarming rate of biodiversity loss”, and to protect indigenous communities around the world from multinationals’ “destructive extraction of fossil fuels, minerals, timber and agroindustrial products”.
The Pope closed his message today with a call to the Church and society to adopt “long-term action plans” to address the fact that “the cries of the earth and of the poor have become even louder and more painful in recent years”.
“Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family”, Francis concluded, inviting Christians to rejoice “that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word ‘became flesh and lived among us'”.