In an unprecedented step, Pope Francis has released a message well ahead of an annual festivity that Christians see as an opportunity to pray and care for God’s creation.
On July 21, the head of the Roman Catholic Church made public his message for this year’s “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,” an event that marks the beginning of the “Season of Creation” that Christians celebrate from September 1 through October 4.
“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance,” the pontiff said in his message, whose premature release appears to underscore the importance he attaches to the ecological state of our planet. “On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.”
“The sweet song of creation invites us to practice an ecological spirituality attentive to God’s presence in the natural world,” Francis said. “It is a summons to base our spirituality on the loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.”
Looking ahead at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled in Egypt in November, Francis emphasized that the upcoming meeting represents an “opportunity to work together for an effective implementation of the Paris Agreement”—the 2015 international treaty aimed at limiting global warming.
The pope said that he has already arranged for Vatican City to follow the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which outlines the legal structure and principles for international climate change cooperation.
His directives, the pope explained, were inspired by “the hope that the humanity of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” regarding climate change.
Reiterating a message he intended for the corporate world in October 2021, the pope said: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries—mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness—to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.”
“Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent,” Francis lamented.
Their anguish is matched by the cries of indigenous peoples whose “ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, provoking a cry that rises up to heaven.”
He then focused on the plight of children. “Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.
“Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.”
“Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, let us weep with the anguished plea of creation,” Francis said. “Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.”
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