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A True ‘Theology’ of Ecology in a New Book of Pope Francis

‘A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment’

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“Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment,” is Pope Francis’ new book, which was published in Italian on October 24, 2019, by the Vatican Publishing House [Libreria Editrice Vaticana].

 The volume was printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper, which issued from a forest and a logistical chain managed in keeping with the strict norms of environmental, social and economic durability.

It gathers texts expressing Pope Francis’ defense of the environment, including a text on the Christian vision of ecology, highlighted “Vatican News” in Spanish.

The Preface is written by the Ecumenical Patriarch <of Constantinople> Bartholomew I, who describes the stages of collaboration between them on these issues, especially the Messages on the occasion of the World Days of Prayer for the Safeguarding of Creation, held every year on September 1.

This Day was established in 2015, and united the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in “common concerns for the future of Creation.”

Environmental Conversion

The first chapter, entitled “Global Vision” includes a selection of texts, in particular, fragments of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, which stresses the need to protect our “Common Home” by the union of the “human family” in the quest for “durable and integral development.”

This last idea is developed in the chapter “From the Challenge of An Epoch to a “Global Opportunity,” based on the analysis of extracts of the Encyclical regarding the present environmental crisis.

Pollution, global warming, climate change and loss of biodiversity are the consequences of unbridled exploitation destined to continue to grow exponentially unless there is a “change of direction” in the short term.

In this context, the Holy Father stresses that an “environmental conversion” is possible if a veritable “ecological education” is promoted, which creates, in particular in the new generations, awareness and, consequently, a renewed consciousness.

Guardians of Creation and of Life

According to “Vatican News,” the book includes Pope Francis’ addresses, audiences and homilies that show that, from the first days of his pontificate, he has referred to ”the urgency” to address the problem of ecology: it is about safeguarding the immense gift that God has given each living being, but especially man, the only one who received “the breath of God.”

Running through Genesis, he points out that the care of Creation and of human life are intimately connected and inseparable. Therefore, free access to the necessary goods for survival is indispensable, with priority given to access to water, with no discrimination between peoples.

Theology of Ecology

The book ends with the text entitled “Our Mother Earth.” The Pontiff expresses a wider perspective, which is not limited to concern for the environment. It is a true “theology of ecology,” a profoundly spiritual address.

Creation is conceived as the fruit of God’s love for each of His creatures, in particular, for the human being, to whom He gave the gift of Creation, place where we are invited to discover a presence.”

“It is man’s capacity for communion that determines the state of Creation (…) Therefore, it is man’s destiny that determines the destiny of the universe,’ explains the Bishop of Rome.

On the other hand, the bond between man and Creation is lived in love and, on the contrary, is corrupted if he fails and does not recognize the gift given to him. “The irresponsible exploitation of resources” to obtain power and wealth in the hands of a few, entails an “unbalance” that leads to the destruction of the world and of peoples.

Pope Francis wonders if “the environmental urgency,” in which we are plunged, can become an occasion to go back, “to choose life” and to revise the economic and cultural models:” which make justice and sharing real and in which each human being has his/her own dignity and rights.

He recalls what Saint John Paul II said: those that have nothing “run the risk of losing their face, because they disappear; of becoming one of the invisible persons who live in our cities.”

In fact, the Polish Pope denounced the “structures of sin,” which “produce evil, pollute the environment, wound and humiliate the poor, foster the logic of possession and power.”

For Pope Francis, the technological revolution and individual engagement are not sufficient solutions, because consciousness is acquired primarily through a “veritable spirit of communion.”

With Anita Bourdin

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