Pope Francis marked the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, leading a celebration this evening in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The event for the prayer day, which will now be held on September 1 every year, included a reading from the canticle of the Book of Daniel, where creation is called on to praise God, and readings from Genesis, St. Matthew’s Gospel, and from the Holy Father’s encyclical on the environment Laudato si’.
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gave the homily and focused on our responsibility to care for the planet. Caring for creation, the papal preacher underscored, does not mean “dominating” the world we live in, but caring for it as God the Father cares for His creation. Father Cantalamessa also highlighted how Saint Francis of Assisi gives us “living proof of the contribution that faith in God can give to the common effort to care for and protect the environment.” He also reminded those gathered how Jesus called on the faithful to think of the generations who will come after them.
At the end of last week’s General Audience, Pope Francis announced that there would be a Liturgy of the Word with bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Roman Curia in St. Peter’s Basilica tonight and he invited Romans, pilgrims, and all those who would like to, to participate.
On August 10, the Pontiff instituted the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to be celebrated each year on September 1st in an announcement in a letter he sent to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. In the letter, the Pope reaffirmed how part of our responsibility as Christians involves resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, he stressed, we must first rediscover in our own “rich spiritual patrimony” the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation and how Jesus lived in the world.
Recalling his encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’, Francis stressed that the ecological crisis summons us to a “profound spiritual conversion”: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion” whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ becomes evident in their relationship with the world around them. (217)
“The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live,” he said.
The celebration of this day on the same date as the Orthodox Church, the Holy Father stated, will provide a valuable opportunity to bear witness to our growing communion with our Orthodox brothers and sisters.
In attendance at tonight’s celebration were several representatives from the Orthodox Church, along with many Vatican officials, and ambassadors to the Holy See. With a blessing, Pope Francis concluded the prayer service: “May your blessing act in us, O Lord, and transform us with your renewing power, so that we might be wholly disposed to the service of what is good.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of invitation to today’s event: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/general-audience-on-praying-as-a-family
Announcement of Pope instituting World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-institutes-world-day-of-prayer-for-care-of-creation