VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 ( Today, Benedict XVI received in audience a large group of Italian students, members of the "Sister Nature" foundation promoted by the Franciscan community of Assisi.

The encounter came the day before the anniversary of the proclamation of St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of ecology by John Paul II in 1979.

The Pontiff referred to the well-known "Canticle of Brother Sun," written by St. Francis of Assisi. The canticle, he noted, "brings to light the just place to give the Creator, to Him who called into existence the whole great symphony of creatures."

St. Francis, the Pope continued, invited us to perceive in nature a book that speaks to us of God, and of his beauty and goodness. 

The Church, he said, has never ceased to insist on the importance of respecting the mark of the Creator in creation, while at the same time recognizing the importance of scientific research and discoveries.

It is vital, Benedict XVI insisted, for young people to always remember they are cooperating with God as they develop their talents and prepare for professional life.

As he has done many times in the past when addressing environmental issues, the Pope linked respect for creation with the dignity of the human person.

"Today more than ever it seems clear that respect for the environment cannot forget the recognition of the value of the human person and his inviolability, in every phase of life and in every condition."

"Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one whole, but both can grow and have their just measure if we respect in the human creature and in nature the Creator and his creation," he said.

Then, turning to speak to the teachers and authorities present, the Pope stressed the importance of education to help young people respect the environment and to lead responsible lifestyles.

"Moreover, it is in fact evident that there is not a good future for humanity on earth if we do not educate all to a more responsible lifestyle in confrontations with nature," the Pope said. 

Benedict XVI emphasized the word "creation" as he said that "the great and marvelous tree of life is not the fruit of a blind and irrational evolution, but this evolution reflects the creative will of the Creator and his beauty and goodness."