Pope Francis wrote a pontifical message for the World Day of Prayer For the Care of Creation this year that was unwavering in its intent of informing Catholics, and the peoples of Earth, that we had all better do a better job of caring for the environment. On the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, our Pope has prepared a special message for all the peoples of the world.
“You shall thus hallow the fiftieth year
and you shall proclaim a release throughout the land
to all its inhabitants.
It shall be a jubilee for you.”
September 1st, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation marks the beginning of the Season of Creation for Christians, and concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on October fourth. If you thought they Christianity is divorced from the real world, and environmental issues, the Pope wants you to reconsider your ignorance
Pope Francis wants us all to remember,m during this time, that, “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”
Pope Francis’ message is broken up into five parts: A Time to Remember, A Time to Return, A Time to Rest, A Time to Restore, and A Time to Rejoice.
A Time to Remember refers to ““everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” We are reminded to remember the inter-relatedness of all things, especially as regards how we, as people, are interconnected socially, and sharing a common bond of living on the same green and blue ball we call Earth. Caring for our home planet is not a separate issue, but rather a component of “fraternity, justice and faithfulness” to our brothers and sisters of the world.
A Time to Return means turning back in repentance, repairing our bond with the Creator, other people, and creation. Pope Francis here quotes Pope Benedict, “the brutal consumption of creation begins where God is missing, where matter has become simply material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate measure, where everything is simply our property.” The Popes are not calling for us to give up everything, but rather realize our responsibility to ward other people, and remembering that life’s ultimate value cannot be measured by the figures we see in our bankbooks and ledger sheets.
We must serve the impoverished, and those most vulnerable, rather than turning our backs on them. Clearly, Pope Francis is admonishing us for believing that life is some sort of rat race, and for wrongly interpreting what “survival of the fittest” really means. Greed is at the core of this, an insidious disease of the soul, emotions, and mind. Cooperation, not competition, is necessary for us all to thrive. Pope Francis calls on us to work toward setting free all those yet chained by the yoke of modern slavery. While Black people were freed as slaves in the Southern plantations in the United States, and elsewhere, there are more slaves in the world than at any other time.
The includes sex slavery, child labor, child sex trafficking, and other disgusting forms of indenture. How do we do this, exactly? It all starts with an appreciation for what life is, by throwing off our materialistic views. “Let us awaken our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense.” We must be mindful, prayerful, and repentant. That’s true for all Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and really all the people of the world, even those who identify as agnostics and atheists.
A Time To Rest means remembering the Sabbath and the seventh year Jubilee, when the land is provided a respite from the heavy demands we humans placed upon it. The Pope cal;ls on us to live sustainably, respecting our ecosystem. Looking back, modern science promised abundance, but delivered anything but. Chemical fertilizers, factory farming of animals, and agricultural practices that depleted the land are but a few examples.
Pope Francis asks that we consider the pandemic not merely as a negative, a crisis, but as a time we can go forward with a new beginning, a chance for all of us to live more simply. He reminds us of how the air is cleaner, in just a few months time, a fact that was proven through numerous scientific studies. Our water is even cleaner, in just a few short months of lessened pollution. He also cites how animals have returned to many areas where they have been gone for generations. He asks us to think carefully about how we use energy, eat, travel, and consume rampantly. We must transform our way of life into something more in line with the cycles of life, rather than a cycle that invariably ends in death, disease, and destruction.
A Time to Restore reminds us that a Jubilee as also about healing strained relationships between people, re-establishing our bonds with others along equitable lines, forgiving debts, and ensuring that the world’s people all have a way to eat and survive. helping those less fortunate should not be regarded as a “handout.” Giving to those people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged actually provides as “hand up.” In what ways? Providing clothing for children helps parents reallocate their scarce funds so they can pay for other necessities. You would be shocked how many families go without so they can provide their children with positive experiences and opportunities.
Pope Francis call on us to remember that plundering valuable resources is wrong. That includes hinterlands stripped of their precious underground resources, from rare minerals to basics such as clean water. In some areas, manufacturers have polluted the groundwater, or lowered the water table by siphoning off water for use in running their factories, all at an extreme cost to local peoples, who gain practically nothing in the process.
The Pope also asks us to think about how we destroyed valuable environmental space for waste disposal. AS Staten Islanders, we’re reminded of the Brookfield landfill and the Fresh Kills landfill, both hallmarks to the unsound practices of the twentieth century. It’s good that we now recycle and reuse. The throwaway culture of the latter part of the 20th century made little sense.
Pope Francis also calls for the cancellation of debt to vulnerable nations. Why? Debt impacts societies by ruining health, as well as lessening opportunities for all. Schemes to involve third-world countries in the international trade game left many in positions whereby entire lands were left decimated, both stripped of resources by international corporations, as well as polluted by same, with a population that yet struggles to survive, daily.
Pope Francis makes no mistake about out need to reduce emissions, and prevent climate change. While many of our readers are staunch Republicans, claiming they are Conservative, it’s not at all a Conservative value to ignore conservation. Many disagree with the basic concept of climate change and think it’s a “liberal plot.” Even if this is your thinking, it’s undeniable that pollution kills wildlife and people, and dirtier air and water is the cost of commerce without ethics.
Indigenous peoples should be respected, and their lands likewise treasured. Pope Francis frowns on multinational corporations who conquer and plunder, then move on, “operat[ing] in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home.” Are you a Catholic? Do you care about the people that our support of wanton destruction has caused, worldwide? Many will wish for you to turn your attention elsewhere, avert your gaze from this tragedy, but to do so is to fail in our basic duty of ensuring that every living person has a way to sustain themselves.
A Time to Rejoice reminds us that a Jubilee was traditionally a time of joy and celebration, when trumpets blasted in recognition of this festival of renewal. Pope Francis want us to look around and see how the Holy Spirit is reinvigorating the world, as ” individuals and communities around the world to come together to rebuild our common home and defend the most vulnerable in our midst.” It’s not okay to ignore the poor, it’s not okay to ignore the terrible injustices that have been perpetrated for generations and generations, against vulnerable populations. If we do so, we people of morals, whether of faith or no faith, are worse than the animals, who at least live in balance with their world.
A more just, peaceful, and sustainable world is what Pope Francis asks us to rejoice about. We all share a common home and are all one family. This extends beyond the world of humans, and includes all the wildlife of the world, who live without a vote or a voice, and have had to bear the worst of the pressures we have exerted upon their home. “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.” Whether you identify as a Christian or not matters little. We’re past that point. What matters is that you embody a spirit of change, a spirit of caring. That’s what faith is really all about, anyway. Don’t forget this, as anything else matters little; your morality in action means you live in a way that not only lessens harm to others,but actually helps them.