Papal Address to Student Group on Ecology

«Respect for the Human Being and Respect for Nature Are One»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 ( Here is a Vatican Radio translation of Benedict XVI’s address today to a foundation called «Sister Nature.»

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Lord Cardinal, Distinguished Authorities, Dear Youngsters and Youths!

It is with great joy that I welcome all of you to this meeting dedicated to commitment to «Sister Nature,» to use the name of the Foundation that organized it.

I cordially greet Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and I thank him for the words he also addressed to me in your name and for the gift of the beautiful reproduction of Codex 338, which contains the oldest Franciscan sources. I greet the president, Mr. Roberto Leoni, as well as the Authorities and Personalities and the numerous teachers and parents. But above all I greet you, youth, dear young people! It is precisely for you that I wanted this meeting, and I would like to tell you that I appreciate very much your choice to be «guardians of creation,» and in this you have my full support.

First of all we must remember that your foundation and this same meeting have a deep Franciscan inspiration. Even today’s date was chosen to commemorate the proclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II in 1979. You all know that St. Francis is also a patron of Italy. But perhaps you do not know that he was so declared by Pope Pius XII, in 1939, who called him «the most Italian of the saints, the holiest of the Italians.» If, therefore, the patron saint of Italy is also the patron of ecology, it seems fitting that young Italians should have a special feeling for «sister nature», and concretely work to defend her.

When studying Italian literature, one of the earliest texts found in the anthologies is in fact St Francis of Assisi’s «Canticle of Brother Sun», or «of creatures,»: «Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! ….» This song highlights the right place to give to the Creator, the One who has called into existence all the great symphony of creatures. «… All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures». These verses are part of your educational and cultural tradition. But first they are a prayer, that educates the heart in dialogue with God, teaches it to see the imprint of the great heavenly Artist on all creatures, as we read in the beautiful Psalm 19: «The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament proclaims the works of his hands… There is no speech, no words; their voice is not heard; A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world»(see 1.4-5). Brother Francis, faithful to Sacred Scripture invites us to recognize in nature a wonderful book that speaks to us of God, its beauty and goodness. It is enough to think of the fact that the Poverello of Assisi always asked the monk in charge of the garden of the convent, not to cultivate all the land for vegetables, but leave some for flowers, moreover to cultivate a beautiful bed of flowers, so that the people who passed by would raise their thoughts to God, the creator of such beauty (cf. Vita, Thomas of Celano, CXXIV, 165).

Dear friends, the Church, noting with appreciation the most important research and scientific discoveries, has never ceased to recall that respect for the Creator’s imprint in all creation, leads to a better understanding of our true and deepest human identity. If properly undertaken, this respect can help a young person to also discover talents and personal ability, and therefore help prepare them for a certain profession, which they will always try to perform in full respect for the environment. In fact, if in his work, man forgets he is God’s collaborator, then he can cause violence to creation, which always has a negative impact on humans, as we have seen, unfortunately, on several occasions. Today more than ever, it has becomes clear that respect for the environment can not leave aside the recognition of the value of the human person and its inviolability at every stage and in every condition of life. Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one, but both can grow and find their right measure if we respect in the human being and in nature the Creator and his creation. On this, dear young people, I believe to find allies in you, true «guardians of life and creation.»

And now I would like to take this opportunity to say some words to the teachers and authorities who are present here. I would emphasize the great importance of education in this field of ecology. I gladly accepted the proposal of this meeting because it involves so many young students, because it has a clear educational perspective. And in fact it has become apparent that there will be no good future for humanity on earth if we do not educate everyone to a more responsible way of life for creation. And this style is learned first at home and in school. I encourage you, therefore, parents, school administrators and teachers to carry on with a constant commitment to education and teaching focus for this purpose. Moreover, it is essential that institutions in charge, who are well represented here today, support this work of families and schools.

Dear friends, we entrust these thoughts and aspirations to the Virgin Mary, Mother of all humanity. As we have just entered the season of Advent, may she accompany us and lead us to recognize in Christ the center of the universe, the light that enlightens every man and every creature. And St. Francis teach us to sing with all creation, a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, giver of every gift. Thank you so much for coming, and I willingly accompany your study, your work and your commitment with my blessing. I spoke of singing; let us sing together the Our Father, the great prayer taught to us all by Jesus.

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