Pope Francis has proposed a new work of mercy: care of creation.
According to the Pope’s message “Show Mercy to Our Common Home,” released today on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, he states: “Obviously ‘human life itself and everything it embraces’ includes care for our common home. So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home.”
As a spiritual work of mercy, the Holy Father continued, “care for our common home calls for a ‘grateful contemplation of God’s world’ (Laudato Si’, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (ibid., 230-31).”
During a press conference in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the message, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke on its significance. (Cardinal Turkson was named yesterday to lead the newly created Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which will encompass what is now four pontifical councils.)
Cardinal Turkson was speaking along with Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office; Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Terrence Ward, author of ‘The Guardian of Mercy’ in which one learns of Caravaggio’s masterpiece on the works of mercy located in the southern Italian city of Naples.
The African cardinal, who was the Pope’s closest collaborator for his encyclical on ecology, spoke on the message, underscoring how important it is to protect the environment, and that our own little actions should never be dismissed as not making a difference.
While stressing how we on a personal level must ‘ecologically convert’ — committing ourselves to the little gestures like shutting off lights, monitoring the air conditioning, not polluting, etc — he noted how our personal efforts are not enough.
There must also be an ‘ecological conversion’ on an institutional level, governmentally, political, and by businesses.
Repenting for our sins that abuse the planet and changing course, Cardinal Turkson highlighted, are necessary, along with a serious examination of conscience about our conduct and how we can change our lifestyles.
“This is the practical implication of Laudato Si’,” the prelate stressed, noting “this is how Laudato Si ought to be lived out.”
In addition, Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke from an ecumenical standpoint, reminding those present how concern for the environment is a unifying force among Christians, and even beyond, to the world’s religions too.
During the Q&A, a journalist asked how care for creation would be lived out concretely as an act of mercy. Terrance Ward made the point how the other works of mercy cannot be lived out properly if the planet itself is not ‘healthy.’ One cannot help another with food or drink, if the water or meal is contaminated, he noted, nor can one offer sustainable shelter, if the home is constructed on land that is not healthy or sound.
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