(Source: CD/Vatican News)

Contemplation and compassion are indispensable ingredients for an integral ecology as proposed by the encyclical Laudato si’, which urges justice for both the created world and for every human being. 

Pope Francis made the point on Saturday to some 250 representatives of the “Laudato Si’ Communities”, which work in a concrete way to spread the values of his 2015 encyclical.

Integral ecology

The Pope told the group that there is a need for integral ecology “because we are all creatures and everything in creation is related.”

“Even the pandemic has demonstrated this: the health of humanity cannot be separated from that of the environment in which we live.” 

Climate change, he explained, not only upsets the balance of nature but also causes poverty and hunger, affects the most vulnerable and sometimes forces them to leave their land.

“The neglect of creation and social injustices influence each other,” the Pope said, stressing, “there is no ecology without equality and there is no equality without ecology.”

In this regard, the Holy Father offered the Laudato Si’ Communities two ingredients that foster integral ecology: contemplation and compassion.

Contemplation

Speaking about contemplation, Pope Francis lamented that we no longer admire the nature that surrounds us but instead devour it because we have become voracious and dependent on immediate profit and results at all costs.

Distracted and sick with consumerism, we eagerly await the latest phone app, while forests are burned quickly and we don’t even know the names of our neighbours and cannot distinguish one tree from another. 

In order not to forget and be distracted by a thousand useless things, the Pope said, we must stop, find silence and return to contemplation.

For example, we need to free ourselves from the imprisonment of the cell phone, in order to look into the eyes of those next to us and creation.

Contemplation, the Pope explained, requires silence and prayer so that harmony – which is a healthy balance between head, heart and hands, or between thought, feeling and action – returns to the soul.

Those who contemplate, he said, discover the tenderness of God’s gaze and that each one is important in the eyes of God. Each one can transform a little world polluted by human voracity into the good reality willed by the Creator.

Those who contemplate, the Pope said, “do not remain with their hands in their pockets, but instead find something tangible to do.”

“Compassion is the best vaccine against the epidemic of indifference”

The fruit of contemplation, Pope Francis said, is compassion. We become compassionate when we see with the eyes of God and regard others as brothers and sisters of a single family living in the same house.

“His compassion,” the Pope said, “is the opposite of our indifference.”

“Our compassion,” he continued, “is the best vaccine against the epidemic of indifference.” Those who have compassion go from “I don’t care about you” to “you are important to me.”

Compassion, he said, creates a new bond with the other, just like the Good Samaritan who, moved by compassion, takes care of the unfortunate man he does not even know.

Getting one’s hands dirty in “creative and active” charity

The Pope said the world needs this “creative and active charity from people who do not stay in front of a screen making comments, but who are willing to get their hands dirty to remove degradation and restore dignity.”

Having compassion is “choosing not to have any enemies” but to “see everyone as a neighbour”.

Scandalous that a billion tons of edible food is thrown away every year

Compassionate people, the Pope explained, fight against discarding persons and wasting things.

He expressed pain at the many people who are “discarded without compassion: the elderly, children, workers, people with disabilities….”

Citing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Pope said it is scandalous that more than a billion tons of edible food are thrown away every year in industrialised countries.

The Holy Father thus urged all to fight waste and demand political choices that combine progress and equity, development and sustainability for all so that “no-one is deprived of the land he inhabits, the good air she breathes, the water he has the right to drink and the food she has the right to eat.”

When one loses a child, there are no words: Pope comforts family, friends of victims of Italian nightclub stampede

Also on Saturday, Pope Francis met with the family and friends of victims of a stampede at a nightclub in the Italian town of Corinaldo in 2018.

“Thank you for coming to share your grief and your prayer with me as well,” the pontiff told the loved ones of the victims, adding that: “I remember that, when the tragedy occurred, I was shaken by it.”

Five young people attending a rap concert and a mother who was accompanying her daughter to the event died in the stampede, and numerous others were injured.

As time goes by, the Pope told those left behind after the accident, there is sometimes a danger of forgetting what has happened.

The meeting on Saturday was meant to help “the Church not to forget, to keep it in their hearts, and to entrust your loved ones to the heart of God the Father.”

Without addressing the causes of the tragedy, Pope Francis said, “I join with all my heart in your suffering and your legitimate desire for justice.”

Noting that Corinaldo is located not far from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto, Pope Francis expressed his confidence that, in the moment of “dramatic confusion” during the deadly incident, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a Mother, “never took her eyes off [the victims]… and that she accompanied them in her tenderness.”

Even when overwhelmed with chaotic events, when it may be difficult to pray, Mary does not forget the times we prayed to her throughout our lives, the Pope said. “She certainly accompanied them to the merciful embrace of her Son Jesus.”

Speaking off the cuff, Pope Francis reflected on the fact that there are adjectives that describe those who have lost a spouse (widowed) or parents (orphaned).

“But when one loses a child, there is no adjective”, he reflected. “It is impossible to ‘adjectivise’ the loss of a child”.

“I lost a child…. This is your great sorrow.”

Pope Francis assured family and friends of the victims of the continued prayers and support of the Church and of their communities, and concluded the brief encounter with a blessing for all of them.

At the end of the blessing, he invited all those gathered to say a Hail Mary and pronounced the victims names out loud: Asia, Benedetta, Daniele, Emma, Mattia and Eleonora.

(Updated 14/9 with the Pope’s audience with the loved ones of the stampede victims)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.