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On Wednesday, Pope Francis delivered a speech in Rome linking economic difficulty to a deteriorating climate change. The speech came shortly after a Vatican-hosted academic summit on the responsibility of humanity in the grey areas of science.
“Safeguard [this] creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, [it] will destroy us!”
The speech opened recounting the Christian story of creation wherein God developed nature, called it “good” and requested humans to be its caretakers. “Creation is not a property which we can rule over…even less is the property of only…few,” said Francis.
The rare summit early this month called “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility,” brought together both the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences. The two multi-national groups, made up of environmental scientists, theologians, economists and philosophers, came together for the second time in history to discuss the role of society in the quality of human life and environmental challenges of the next century.
The conclusions of the summit, though broad, echoed Pope Francis’ idea of the “economy of exclusion.” A piece of the final commentary read, “Human action which [ is disrespectful] of nature becomes a boomerang for [humans]…that creates inequality.”
Though Pope Francis had only a small part in the summit, he voiced support for its outcomes and is rumored to be drafting a encyclical to the world’s bishops on the relationship between man and nature.
The highest form of papal writing, the encyclical is sure to have pieces of past appeals to environmental consideration from the Pope such as his comments on January 14 during his “state of the world” address. He said, “God always forgives, [humans] sometimes forgive, but when nature…is mistreated, she [will] never [forgive].”
Aside from linking economic difficulty to climate change, Pope Francis also outlined two lies about the environment which he believes society has “[fallen] prey” to. The first, he said, is the idea that we are the rulers of creation.
Instead he called it “a gift…that God has given us, so that we…use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” He said the second accepted lie is that damaging nature is not a sin.
“When we exploit [nature],” said Francis, “we destroy the sign of God’s love…in destroying Creation we are saying: ‘I don’t like it!” He called upon Catholics to look at a deteriorating climate as a sign of sinful action.
Despite his seemingly negative comments, Pope Francis ended his speech on a positive note. He called for the addition of “the gift of knowledge,” to the seven catechesis. He argued that through nature, humans can better understand God, fellow man and “the light of God’s loving plan.”
With the link of economy and climate change, Pope Francis seems to be on a continuing track of environmental awareness. Making reference to the his namesake, Francis of Assisi, who was said to have preached to animals, Pope Francis said he “[taught] us…the protection of [the] environment, which…too often…we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.”
By Erin P. Friar