Nuclear Contamination of Oceania Denounced

Pope Calls for Respect for Environment

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2001 ( John Paul II´s love of nature is reflected in his newest document when he refers to the «great natural beauty» of Oceania and denounces the nuclear contamination that poisons some of its areas.

In No. 31 of «Ecclesia in Oceania,» the apostolic exhortation published Thursday, the Pope illustrates the theological foundation for respect for the environment.

«Creation was entrusted to human stewardship,» he wrote, «the natural world is not just a resource to be exploited but also a reality to be respected and even reverenced as a gift and trust from God.»

«It is the task of human beings to care for, preserve and cultivate the treasures of creation,» the Pope added. «The Synod Fathers called upon the people of Oceania to rejoice always in the glory of creation in a spirit of thanksgiving to the Creator.»

The new document reflects the findings of the 1998 Synod of Bishops from Oceania, held in Rome.

In this context, the Holy Father denounced the fact that «the natural beauty of Oceania has not escaped the ravages of human exploitation. The Synod Fathers called upon the governments and peoples of Oceania to protect this precious environment for present and future generations.»

The continent´s inhabitants, John Paul II added, have the «special responsibility to assume, on behalf of all humanity, stewardship of the Pacific Ocean, containing over half of the earth´s total supply of water. The continued health of this and other oceans is crucial for the welfare of peoples, not only in Oceania but in every part of the world.»

In particular, the Pope denounced the «dumping of nuclear waste in the area, [which] constitutes an added danger to the health of the indigenous population.»

«Yet, it is also important to recognize that industry can bring great benefits when undertaken with due respect for the rights and culture of the local population, and for the integrity of the environment,» John Paul II concluded.

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