Holding his weekly general audience on the 50th Earth Day on Wednesday, Pope Francis called for common action and ecological conversion that lead to a deeper love for our common home and our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.
Celebrating the 50th Earth Day on Tuesday, Pope Francis pointed out that the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us that we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.
The Pope, who dedicated his 2015 enclyclical, “Laudato Si”, to the care of the created world, noted that we are fashioned from the earthand that the fruit of the earth sustains our life. As the book of Genesis reminds us, we are not simply “earthly”; we also bear within us the ‘breath of life’ that comes from God. Thus, he said, we live in this common home as one human family in biodiversity with God’s other creatures.
As the ‘image of God’, the Pope said, we are called to care for and respect all creatures, and to offer love and compassion to our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable among us, in imitation of God’s love for us, manifested in his Son Jesus.
However, because of our selfishness, we have failed in our responsibility to be guardians and stewards of the earth. We have polluted and despoiled it, endangering our very lives. In this regard, the Pope expressed appreciation for the various international and local movements who are appealing to our consciences. Our children, he said, have taken to the streets to teach us that “we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us”.
“Gospel of Creation”, “our garden-home”
By failing to care for “our garden-home”, the earth, and our brothers and sisters, the Pope said, we have sinned against the earth, against our neighbours, and ultimately against the Creator. Hence, we need to look at our common home, the earth, in a new way, in order to restore a harmonious relationship with the earth and with the rest of humanity.
We should not regard the earth as a “storehouse of resources for us to exploit”. For believers, the Pope said, the natural world is the “Gospel of Creation” as it expresses God’s creative power in fashioning human life and bringing the world and all it contains into existence, in order to sustain humanity.
The Pope called on all to renew their sense of sacred respect for the earth, saying “is not just our home but also God’s home”, and that ‘we stand on holy ground’.
In this regard, he held up the indigenous people as a model saying, “they teach us that we cannot heal the earth unless we love and respect it”.
Ecological conversion and common action
The Holy Father said that an ecological conversion with concrete actions is needed in order to avert the threats to our common home. In this regard, he asked leaders to guide the preparations for two important international conferences: COP15 on Biodiversity in Kunming, China [October 2020], and COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow, UK [November 2020].
At the local and national levels, the Pope encouraged the creation of a popular movement “from below”, noting that the Earth Day was born this way. “We can each contribute in our own small way,” he urged.