Pope, Patriarch: Care for creation includes respect for people
VATICAN— Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew sent a joint message Friday for the World Day of Care for Creation, which says that we have lost sight of our responsibility for God’s creation, including our fellow human beings.
“The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people,” stated the message, published by the Vatican Sept. 1.
“The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures.”
“The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development,” it continued.
Instituted by Pope Francis in 2015 shortly after the release of his environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,” the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation takes place each year on Sept. 1.
Francis’ decision to implement the event is in keeping with themes expressed in the encyclical, and is also seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church, which established Sept. 1 as a day to celebrate creation in 1989.
This year marks the first time that Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, have issued a statement together for this particular day of prayer.
In the message, the two leaders explained that creation, as told throughout Scripture but especially the Book of Genesis, reveals that from the beginning, “God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.”
The earth was entrusted to us as a “sublime gift and legacy,” which gives us all a shared responsibility in its care, it continued. This is important because “our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.”
However, the message said, our attitude and behavior towards creation has over time obscured our calling as God’s “co-operators.” As morals decline, we have lost sight of the original purpose of creation, alienated by our tendency to destroy delicate ecosystems and our “greed for limitless profits in markets.”
We have also been controlled by an “insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources.” Instead of regarding nature and creation as a gift shared among everyone, we think we can rule over it like a private possession.
In the message the two leaders, “united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good,” urged all people to dedicate a special time for prayer for the environment on Sept. 1.
“On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations,” they wrote, explaining that prayer should be at the center of the celebration, since without the Lord any work is in vain.
One thing we should all pray for is a change in our perception of the world and the way we interact with it, they continued, stating that the goal of the promise to care for creation “is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.”
They also appealed to those in positions of responsibility, especially in areas touching the social, economic, political and cultural, that they might listen to the “plea of millions” in need and “support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.”
“We are convinced,” the message concluded, “that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”