Church and Ecology
The Church and Ecology
On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released an encyclical on ecology entitled, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.” Drawing extensively from the teaching of his predecessors, Pope Francis writes that care for the earth is necessarily bound together with our care of one another, especially the poor. This interdependency extends from the deep respect due every human person to all living beings and to the earth where we make our home. “Each creature has its own purpose…and the entire material universe speaks of God’s love.”84 The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to call our attention to a rich treasury of thought that people of faith bring with them to conversations about the human person and our environment. He states, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”229
Read Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si.
Pope Francis has a particular concern for the environment. On March 16, 2013, just three days after he had been elected, Pope Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name of Francis of Assisi because “Francis was a man of poverty who loved and protected creation.” Three days later, during the Mass to mark his inauguration as pope, Francis linked protection of people with protection of the environment, pointing out that being a protector “means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world;’ and he added: ‘Everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.” Francis’ linking of concern for the exploited earth with concern for marginalized and exploited people has been a consistent theme of his papacy thus far.
On June 5, 2013, UN World Environment Day, Francis devoted his general-audience message to the environment. Condemning “consumerism” and a “culture of waste,” he called for “a spirit of solidarity grounded in our common responsibility for the earth and for all our brothers and sisters in the human family.” On Easter Sunday 2013, the pope said, “Let us be … channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” (“Thinking Faith” by Donal Dorr)
In 1989, Pope John Paul II issued his message for World Peace Day entitled "Peace with God, Peace with All of Creation.” Pope John Paul stated that world peace is threatened not only by war and the nuclear-arms race but also “by the plundering of natural resources and by a progressive decline in the quality of life.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 Message for the World Day of Peace, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” is the latest in a long tradition of Church teaching on our obligation to care for creation. Quoting Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI throughout his message, the Holy Father affirms that environmental degradation is “a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family” (# 3).
Pope John Paul II ends his message with mention of St. Francis of Assisi who, he says, “gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God, we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable for peace among all God’s people.”
HELPFUL CHURCH SITES AND DOCUMENTS
Pope John Paul II's message on the Church and the environment is one of many calls by our Church leaders to deepen our respect for the integrity of the Earth. The following sites give witness to the Church's recognition that care for the Earth is a global issue, calling for interdependence and collaboration.
If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation by Pope Benedict XVI, January 10, 2010
Environmental Justice Program: Caring for God's Creation by the U.S. Catholic Bishops
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Collaborative Efforts
NCC Eco-Justice Program , Eco-Justice, Environmental Justice, Environment and Faith, National Council of Churches of Christ
Climate Change Justice and Health by the U.S. Catholic Bishops
Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, 2001
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