John Paul II Calls for "Ecological Conversion"

To Avoid Catastrophe

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2001 (
John Paul II called for an «ecological conversion» as the indispensable condition to avoid a potential catastrophe for mankind.

The harmony of man´s relations with nature «is continually upset by human sin,» the Pope said during the traditional Wednesday general audience, with thousands of pilgrims present. The Holy Father energetically advocated for a «human ecology.»

Such an ecology, he insisted, «will render the life of creatures more dignified, protecting the radical good of life in all its manifestations, and preparing an environment for future generations that is closer to the plan of the Creator.»

John Paul II, who in the aftermath of the Jubilee is addressing the way in which Christians must live their commitment in social life, addressed the topic of ecology by reviewing biblical texts. He focused on the first chapters of Genesis, where God gives man dominion over nature, which in biblical language is symbolized by the gesture of «naming» creatures.

The Pope added that God did not make man an «autonomous despot» over nature. «It is not the mission of an absolute and uncensurable master, but of a minister of the Kingdom of God, called to continue the work of the Creator, a work of life and peace,» he said.

The bishop of Rome pointed out that if «one looks at the regions of our planet, one realizes immediately that humanity has disappointed the divine expectation.»

John Paul II denounced that «man has unhesitatingly devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted the waters, deformed the earth´s habitat, made the air unbreathable, upset the hydrogeological and atmospheric systems, blighted green spaces, implemented uncontrolled forms of industrialization, humiliating — to use an image of Dante Alighieri — the earth, that flower-bed that is our dwelling.»

Given this situation, the Holy Father said that it is necessary to stimulate and support an «ecological conversion,» which over the last few decades «has made humanity more sensitive when facing the catastrophe toward which it was moving.»

The Pontiff´s words reflected his profound concern: «Not only is a ´physical´ ecology at stake, attentive to safeguarding the habitat of different living beings, but also a ´human´ ecology that will render the life of creatures more dignified.»

The Holy Father ended by inviting humanity to discover God in the beauty of creation, quoting a passage from the Jewish Hasidim tradition, which says: «´You are wherever I go! You are wherever I stop … wherever I turn, wherever I admire, only You, again You, always You.»

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