[Laudato si’] Christianity and ecology – why should Christians care for Creation

[Laudato si’] Christianity and ecology – why should Christians care for Creation


Good morning and I bring you best wishes
from the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, especially
from the Sector on Ecology and Creation. And this morning I thank you for the
invitation to speak at your festival on the theme of Laudato si’ and Creation care. Laudato si’, this great gift, that Pope Francis
made to the entire church and to the entire world, the entire planet we might
say, in June 2015, has the subtitle ‘Caring for our Common Home’. Now this text has been described by someone like Dale Jamieson of New York as the most
important environmental text of the 21st century. As we said it’s not just about
environment that he speaks he speaks about our common home – it is ‘oikos’
‘logos’, it’s caring about our common home. And this morning I would like to offer
some reflections on the encyclical in relation with the theme of Creation care in
two parts: first of all describe what is the crisis of our common home, what is
the ecological crisis and I hope to offer you a holistic perspective looking
at the crisis from a physical, moral and spiritual dimension. So let’s begin with
the physical dimension of the crisis. In Laudato si’ paragraph 61 Pope
Francis says: ‘we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common
home is falling into serious disrepair.’ and in the very first chapter of the
encyclical entitled ‘What is happening to our common home’ Pope Francis enumerates the various crises we have. He begins with pollution, then we have climate
change, we have biodiversity loss, we have the depletion of natural resources,
especially water and he gives a very masterly synthesis of the many crises at
the physical level facing our common home. And this is what Pope Francis says.
I quote him: these ‘several aspects of the present ecological crisis’ are what Pope
Francis calls ‘cracks in the planet that we inhabit’. And we can conclude this
first section on the physical dimension of the crisis quoting Lynn White, who
already 1967 said: ‘surely no creature other than human being has ever managed
to foul its nest in such short order’. So this is where we are – our common home is falling into ruin. But we need to go deeper – the crisis is not just physical,
the crisis is also moral, it is ethical and great Pope John Paul II, st. John
Paul II, already in 1990 in his message for the World Day of Peace ‘Peace with Creation, Peace with the Creator’ he said that we are… the ecologic crisis is a
moral crisis and that’s the reason why Pope Francis says in Laudato si’ 49 that
we need to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor. Now why is
it a moral crisis? Precisely for the fact, that the victims, the early and
disproportionate victims of the crisis are the poor, who have contributed least
to causing the crisis, but they are the ones who were already suffering most
from the crisis. I just caught a fact from two important scholars: Partha Dasgupta, an economist in Cambridge and Veerabhadran Ramanathan of
climate change science in Berkeley, USA. They came out with a study and
they showed how the top 1 billion people contribute 50% of
all greenhouse gas emissions – the top 1 billion people. The further 3 billion
people contribute as much as 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions and the poor,
the 3 billion people remaining contribute just 5% of the
greenhouse gas emissions. So in a way we might say that the world is divided into
two: the rich communities, the rich people who cause climate change and other
aspects of the ecologic crisis, and the poor who are suffering. And we have seen,
we are seeing more and more effects of climate change around the world. So
this is the reason Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato si’, ‘We are not faced with
two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one
complex crisis, which is both social and environmental.’ So it is a physical crisis,
but it is also a moral crisis. Now let’s go one step even further: the ecological
crisis is also spiritual, religious crisis, because at the deepest level the
crisis is profoundly spiritual, it’s religious. And it is a beautiful quote
from Pope Benedict XVI, who in 2005 during the Mass of inauguration of his pontificate he said ‘the external deserts are growing, because
the the internal deserts have become so vast’. So if there is crisis outside
there, it is a reflection of the disharmony, of the crisis within us. In
fact the second title, the second chapter of the encyclical Laudato si’ carries this beautiful title. It’s entitled ‘The Gospel of Creation’. The
creation is good news, creation is really gospel. And the current ecological
predicament, has resulted precisely from our refusal to see Earth
as God’s Creation and love and cherish it beyond mere considerations of utility
and consumption. So this is the first part of my small conference, describing
the ecologic crisis from a physical, moral and spiritual dimension. Now we go to the
second part of my intervention: ‘Why Christians should care for Creation?’
And there are seven reasons, fundamental reasons for which we need to care for
Creation. First of all – Earth is God’s creation, secondly Earth creation
is God’s primordial revelation, thirdly Earth is the very home of God, not just
of humanity and of other living beings, but also God dwells with us. And the
fourth reason is that the commandment that we received already in Genesis is
to care for this Creation. A fifth reason is that we need to promote life, so we
need to take care of everything. A sixth reason is that we
need to care for God in our poor brothers and sisters, and the seventh
reason is that the entire Creation is destined to be recapitulated in Christ – the eschatology of Creation. Let’s briefly dwell on each of these.
First of all, the fact that Earth is not just matter, Earth is not just a heap of soil,
Earth is God’s Creation. In our creed, that we recite every Sunday the
very first article says ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ so
Earth is really God’s creation. And God created it out of Love – the
Earth and the entire universe is an outpouring of this infinite Love of God.
And that’s what Dante said and Pope Francis quotes him, that ‘the entire
universe is moved, is propelled by the infinite Love of God’. So we need to take
care of the Earth, because it is God’s Creation,
it is loved by the Lord. A second fundamental reason for which we
Christians need to take care of creation is that Creation is God’s revelation,
rather it’s God’s primordial revelation. The Fathers of the Church
spoke of two books, that is The Book of Works and the Book of Words – the Bible as
we know. But before the Bible came, there was the Book of Works. God, as Calvin
himself said, God writes in the flowers in the trees of nature around us. And
Creation is God’s first Book of Works, and we need to see it as God’s
revelation, where every flower, every bird is a symbol, we might even say, is a
Sacrament of God and in this regard we might remember the example of
st. Francis of Assisi, that seeing a little flower, he would go into ecstasy,
seeing a landscape, he would begin singing the praises of the Lord, because
the Creation reveals God. And the third reason for which we, Christians, need to
take care of creation, is that Earth is also God’s own home. In Genesis 1:2 we read
‘the Spirit of God hovered over the waters’. The Spirit of God is present in
the entire universe. And all the more with the event of Incarnation, as Teilhard de Chardin loved to say – God really came, chose this planet to be incarnated. And
we might remember the beautiful expression of st. John in John 1:14:
‘God’s Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us’, the original version says: ‘God
pitched his tent among us’. So Earth is sacred, because God resides with us. And
Matthew 28:20 says: ‘behold I am with you and with you till the end of time’, so our
Earth is also God’s home. And the fourth reason for which we, Christians, need to
take care of Earth, is that that was the first command that we received – we read
in Genesis 2:15 God telling Adam and Eve ’till and keep’ this garden, cultivate this
garden. Significantly Pope Benedict in 2010 in the message for the World Day of
Peace – it was entitled ‘If you want to cultivate peace, take care of Creation.’ So this is a commandment we have been given right from the beginning and it’s
a responsibility. We are not the proprietors of the Earth, Earth is
entrusted to our care and we need to be good, responsible stewards for God. A fifth reason for which we, Christians, need to take care Creation is that we need to promote life. In the Genesis we read God telling let life be there and let life multiply – in the oceans, in the waters, on the land, everywhere, and
God’s plan for the Earth is that life should exist and life should multiply.
And John 10:10 Jesus says ‘I came, so that you may have life and life in all its
fullness’. So caring for Creation, caring for our planet Earth, our common home, is
very much a pro-life issue. Climate change scientists tell us, that if we go on like this, by the end of the century we might lose one third of all
species on the Earth. And we cannot afford to do it! That’s going against
God’s plan to allow life to exist and flourish on Earth created by Him. And the sixth reason for which we need to care for God’s Creation, as we mentioned already in the first part, is that the poor, our poor brothers and sisters are suffering. And in Matthew, chapter 25 we read, that when we take care of the poor, we
are taking care of Jesus himself. That was the the words, that struck someone like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, these particular words that Jesus said, I was hungry I was thirsty, I was naked, I was in prison, I was
suffering, I was sick, I was a stranger and you came to help me. And the climate
change, as we said, is causing great suffering to so many communities around
the world. So when we take care of the poor, we are taking care of God, and it’s
a responsibility, it’s a vocation, because in the poor we encounter Jesus himself. And the very last reason for which we need to take care of Creation, is that the entire Creation has a destiny, has a ‘telos’. Creation is not just for us
to buy and sell and do whatever we want; as Saint Paul says in the letter to
Colossians, again in Ephesians and in both cases the very first chapter – the
entire universe will be recapitulated in Christ So our Earth, all creatures, all of
us are walking towards this eschatological destiny, where everything will be assumed,
will be recapitulated in Christ, who will offer back to the Father the entire
Creation. So Creation has this very noble, high vocation to be recapitulated in Christ, and we need to respect, we need to assist God in this
journey of the entire Creation, of all creatures to God. So this is the little messages, that I would like to offer you this morning. We saw in the first part, how the ecological
crisis is a very global crisis. It’s not just the physical dimension of the
crisis, there is also the moral, ethical dimension, and at the deepest
level it is a spiritual crisis. In the second part we saw the various reasons, for which we need to take care of God’s Creation and I hope that your meeting,
your festival will really, as John 2:17 says, will enkindle that zeal, that
passion, that fire within us to take care of this one, beautiful home that we have –
the Earth beautiful and so fragile. And I conclude thanking Pope
Francis for the beautiful encyclical Laudato si’, we are nearly
three years into its publication. Now it’s time to put into practice Laudato si’ and I’m sure your conference, our efforts at the Vatican and around the world will
definitely help, so that we can preserve our beautiful home for ourselves, for the rest of the humanity, for the entire biosysetm and species and so that we can,
this entire Creation can be preserved in God’s love, can return to
God’s love. Thank you very much.

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