The Pope has deplored the “sin”, “selfishness” and “greedy desire to possess and exploit” that mar humankind’s care for the “precious gift” of the environment.
Driving the news
The Vatican released Sunday Francis’ message for the 5th World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
In his text, the Pope decried the “egoism and self-interest” that have turned the natural world, “a place of encounter and sharing”, into “an arena of competition and conflict”.
The big picture
Through our negligence and oversight of the natural world, “something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited by human hands”, bemoaned the Pope.
Francis denounced that the “constant pollution” of our world, our continued reliance on fossil fuels and humankind’s increasing agricultural exploitation and deforestation are pushing global temperatures up to alarming levels.
“The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us”, the Pope alerted.
He added that the melting of the world’s glaciers, the scarcity of water and the increasing presence of plastics in our oceans “testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed”.
“We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own”, Francis warned.
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Where it stands
“In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home”, the Pope diagnosed.
He called on citizens not to lord it over creation but to remember we are “at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator”.
“Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation”, Francis insisted.
“Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots”, he said.
As to what that ecological conversion should look like, the Pope pointed to the “timely ecumenical initiative” known as the ‘Season of Creation’, a time of “increased prayer and effort on behalf of our common home” that begins today and runs until 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The ‘Season of Creation’ “is an opportunity to draw closer to our brothers and sisters of the various Christian confessions”, Francis said.
“In this ecological crisis affecting everyone, we should also feel close to all other men and women of good will, called to promote stewardship of the network of life of which we are part”, he added.
Along with a call to prayer, Francis insisted that the ‘Season of Creation’ is also an opportunity “to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful”.
“Let us make an effort to change and to adopt more simple and respectful lifestyles!”, the Pope said in this regard.
“Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy”, Francis explained.
Why it matters
The ‘Season of Creation’ is also a time to undertake “prophetic actions”, added the Pope, praising the young people around the world – such as those of the ‘Fridays for Future’ climate movement – who “are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions” on the environment.
“The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now. We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions”, Francis said.
The Pope also encouraged Catholics and other Christians and people of good will to direct their prayers and appeals to raising the awareness of politicians and civic leaders.
Ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in September and the COP25 conference in Chile in December, Francis urged politicians to “Choose life!” on climate change and environmental degradation.
“Let us say ‘no’ to consumerist greed and to the illusion of omnipotence, for these are the ways of death!”, urged the Pope, calling for “farsighted processes” and “responsible sacrifices” to save life tomorrow.
“Let us not give in to the perverse logic of quick profit, but look instead to our common future!”, Francis urged, also rallying the Church around October’s Pan-Amazon Synod, another chance “to respond to the cry of the poor and of our earth”.
For the record
“Every member of the human family, can act as a thin yet unique and indispensable thread in weaving a network of life that embraces everyone”, the Pope concluded.
He ended his message with a challenge to all to have “the courage to do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late”.