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On Development That Respects the Environment

“We Come From God and We Are All Going Back to Him”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address at this Wednesday’s general audience, which gathered pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
 
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
 
We are coming to the end of the month of August, which for many means the end of the summer holidays. As we return to our daily activities, how can we not thank God for the precious gift of creation, which we can enjoy not only during the period of vacations! The different phenomena of environmental degradation and natural calamities, which unfortunately are often reported in the news, remind us of the urgency of the respect owed to nature, recovering and appreciating, in every day life, a correct relation with the environment. A new sensitivity to these topics is being developed, which arouses the correct concern of the authorities and of public opinion, which is also expressed in the multiplication of meetings at the international level.
 
The earth is a precious gift of the Creator, who has designed its intrinsic order, thus giving us guidelines to which we must hold ourselves as stewards of his creation. From this awareness, the Church considers questions linked to the environment and its safeguarding as profoundly linked with the topic of integral human development. I referred to these questions several times in my last encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” reminding of the pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” (49) not only in relations between countries, but also between individuals, as the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and its use entails a personal responsibility towards the whole of humanity, in particular, towards the poor and future generations (Cf. 48).

Experiencing the shared responsibility for creation (Cf. 51), the Church is not only committed to the promotion of the defense of the earth, of water and of air, given by the Creator to everyone, but above all is committed to protect man from the destruction of himself. In fact, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected in society, environmental ecology also benefits” (ibid). Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where is existence is denied? If the human creature’s relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the “final authority,” and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.
 
Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man’s responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner. Man is called to exercise responsible government to protect it, to obtain benefits and cultivate it, finding the necessary resources for a dignified existence for all.
 
With the help of nature itself and with the commitment of its own work and creativity, humanity is able to assume the grave duty to hand over to the new generations an earth which, in turn, the latter will be able to inhabit worthily and cultivate further (Cf. “Caritas in Veritate,” 50). In order for this to happen, the development is indispensable of “that covenant between the human being and the environment that must be a reflection of the creative love of God” (Message on the occasion of the World Day of Peace 2008, 7), recognizing that we come from God and we are all going back to him.
 
How important it is, therefore, that the international community and the different governments be able to give the appropriate indications to their own citizens to address in an effective manner the ways of utilizing the environment that turn out to be harmful. The economic and social costs stemming from the use of shared environmental resources, recognized in a transparent way, must be assumed by those who use them, and not by other populations or by future generations. Protection of the environment and the safeguarding of the resources and climate call for all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity, above all in the weaker regions of the earth (Cf. “Caritas in Veritate,” 50).
 
Together we can build an integral human development beneficial to present and future peoples, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is indispensable that the present model of global development be transformed through a greater and shared responsibility for creation: This is demanded not only by environmental emergencies, but also by the scandal of hunger and poverty.
 
Dear brothers and sisters: let us thank the Lord and make our own the words of St. Francis in the Canticle of Creatures: “Most High, Omnipotent, good Lord, yours are the praises, the glory and the honor and every blessing … Be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures.”
 
We, too, want to pray and live with the spirit of these words.
 [Translation by ZENIT] [The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:] 
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the many altar servers, school pupils and choristers.
 
The summer holidays have given us all the opportunity to thank God for the precious gift of creation. Taking up this theme, I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of his creation. In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who soon will meet at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.
 
The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development. In my recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the “pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” (no. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. no. 48).
 
How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful laws of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world (cf. no. 50). Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.
 
With these sentiments I wish to encourage all the participants in the United Nations summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God” (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7)! Thank you.
 
© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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