In his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis focused on the issue of the environment on World Environment Day, a United Nations initiative. The Holy Father addressed 70,000 pilgrims who were present in St. Peter’s Square to catch a glimpse of the 76 year old Pontiff.
The Holy Father began his address by reflecting on the story of creation in the book of Genesis, which states that God placed “man and woman on Earth to cultivate and guard it.” Focusing on the meaning of the word “cultivate”, Pope Francis explained the importance of guarding God’s creation.
“Nurturing and cherishing creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us,” the Pope said. “It is part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.”
Recalling the words of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Holy Father told the pilgrims gathered that the task given to mankind by God can only be fulfilled if we grasp “the rhythm and logic of creation.” However, Pope Francis said, in his pride, mankind is losing the “attitude of amazement in God’s creation.”
Human Ecology and Environmental Ecology
Pope Francis stated that cultivating and guarding creation does not only involve the relationship between man and the environment, but also concerns human relationships. Human ecology, he said, “is closely linked to environmental ecology.”
“We are experiencing a moment of crisis; we see it in the environment, but mostly we see it in man,” the Pope said. “The human being is at stake: here is the urgency of human ecology! And the danger is serious because the cause of the problem is not superficial, but profound: it’s not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology.”
“The Church,” the Holy Father continued, “has stressed this several times; and many say: yes, that is right, it’s true but the system continues as before, because what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a lack of financial ethics. So men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: this is “scrap culture”, the culture of the disposable.”
The Holy Father gave an example of this saying how breaking a computer would be considered a tragedy but a poor person dying on a nearby street or a child suffering from hunger is not newsworthy.”
“Conversely, a ten-point drop in the stock market in some cities, is a tragedy. A person who dies is not a news story, but a ten point drop in the stock market is a tragedy! So people are discarded, as if they were trash.”
The poor, disabled, the elderly and the unborn, he said, are no longer needed in the eyes of society and warned that this “scrap culture” is infecting all.
“This scrap culture has also made us insensitive to waste, including food waste, which is even more reprehensible when in every part of the world, unfortunately, many people and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.”
“Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become accustomed to the superfluous and the daily waste of food, which we are sometimes no longer able to value correctly, as its value goes far beyond mere economic parameters. Note well, though, that the food we throw away is as if we had stolen it from the table of the poor or the hungry! I invite everyone to reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food to identify ways and methods that, addressing this issue seriously, may be a vehicle for sharing and solidarity with the neediest.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis recalled the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, which was read on the feast of Corpus Christi, emphasizing the significance of Christ’s response when all were filled and twelve baskets were leftover: “Let nothing be lost: no waste.”
“And there is this fact of the twelve baskets: why twelve? What does it mean? Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, symbolically it represents all the people. And this tells us that when food is shared equally, with solidarity, nobody is devoid of the necessary, each community can meet the needs of the poorest. Human ecology and environmental ecology go hand in hand.”