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Love our earth as our brothers and sisters

In early August, Pope Francis declared September 1 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Despite the short notice, the Church did manage to respond.

Christianity has a rich history in loving the earth. It has always advocated the simple life. In his encyclical, Praise Be: Care for our common home (Laudato Si), Pope Francis explores the natural world and environmental protection from a community point of view.

He extends a moral invitation to all people to protect our common home.

The title is taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. The papal document directly discusses the relationship between St. Francis’ spirituality and the natural world.

In 1971, the World Synod of Bishops published Justice in the World, emphasising the value of a simple life. Paragraph 70 says, “Those who are already rich are bound to accept a less material way of life, with less waste, in order to avoid the destruction of the heritage which they are obliged by absolute justice to share with all other members of the human race.”

In 1979, in The Redeemer of Man (Redemptor Hominis) [# 8], Pope John Paul II spoke of “the threat of pollution of the natural environment in areas of rapid industrialisation.” The pope described a world “groaning in travail (as it) waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

A closer link between faith and environment came in November 1979. Pope John Paul proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi the patron of those who protect the environment, saying, “There is a special way to enable us to be deeply aware that the creation of God the Creator is filled with a certain sacred godliness.”

In 1987, in The Social Concern of the Church (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis), he spelled out “the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature and to take them into account when planning for development, rather than sacrificing them to certain demagogic ideas about the latter.”

He proposed the concept of ecological concern. In Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation (1990), he said, “Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of everyday life” (#13).

On 17 January 2001, he introduced environmental conversion, saying human beings should be stewards of creation. He calls it a human ecology, saying it should make the existence of creatures more dignified, by protecting the fundamental good of life and preparing for future generations an environment more in conformity with the creator’s plan.

Pope Benedict XVI has a green sense. In Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate), he says, “Nature is at our disposal… as a gift of the Creator who has given it an inbuilt order, enabling man to draw from it the principles needed in order ‘to till it and keep it’” (Genesis 2:15) [#48].

Pope Francis has accumulated this wisdom and even enhanced the concepts of gift and steward saying all of creation are brothers and sisters. He writes “love for our brothers and sisters” seven times.

Brotherhood and sisterhood prompt us to express our care for those who suffer from environmental disasters and love for our brothers and sisters invites us to love every single, living, indispensable part in our common home. SE