CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

VATICAN (SE): “God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of debris, desolation and filth,” Pope Francis says in his message to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1.

The day is commemorated annually in Churches around the world and in the last two years has been actively promoted by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which published a prayer service built around the theme of asking God to inspire care for all creation, so it may prosper and remain unharmed by hostile elements, as the work of God’s hands should remain unshaken until the end of the ages.

The day of prayer has its origins in the Third European Ecumenical Assembly held in 2007, where the patriarch of Constantinople pushed for the celebration each year of a Time for Creation to run from September 1, the day the Orthodox Churches celebrate God’s creation, to October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Some parishes, including Malate in Metro Manila, The Philippines, mark the five-week period with special activities aimed at educating people about the marvels of God’s creation, the origins of the universe and the importance of each and every particular species.

In his message, Pope Francis also stresses, “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour.”

He points out that every detail of God’s creation has its divinely appointed purpose and the arrogance of human beings should not the arbiter of the right to continue existing and species certainly should not be sacrificed to human utility.

Pope Francis wrote at length about the connection between climate change and poverty, saying that changing rainfall patterns, temperatures, extreme weather events and rising tides have played havoc with people’s livelihoods in many parts of the world.

He pointed out that there is a direct connection between this and the rising number of refugees in the world, as it is the poor who take the brunt of it, even though they are the ones least responsible for contributing to it.

He called on people to make a new relationship with creation and work to increase their appreciation of the delicate balance of conditions that sustains life.

“Human beings are deeply connected with all creation,” he says. “When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings.”

He says that it is important to remember this, as well as the fact that each creature has its own intrinsic value that must be respected. He is calling on every person to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” as they cry with the same plaintiff voice.

Pope Francis calls ignoring this cry a sin.

“For human beings to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air and its life—these are sins,” he writes.

“After a serious examination of conscience and moved by sincere repentance, we can confess our sins against the Creator, against creation and against our brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis writes, quoting The Catechism of the Catholic Church as saying that is where truth sets us free.

The pope then points out that the Jubilee of Mercy is an ideal time to reflect on these sins, as all conversion is intricately connected with remorse and conversion; and the sacrament of reconciliation is an ideal place to acknowledge our past lack of care for creation.

He points out that the Church has a history of calling for reconciliation and conversion, as in the past Pope John Paul II has called on people to atone and make amends for the religious intolerance of the past, as well as injustice towards the Jews, women, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the poor and the unborn.

However, he adds that to truly make amends involves translating remorse into concrete action, as care for nature is about life style.

He encourages “avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what we can be reasonably consumed, showing care for other living things, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights or any number of practices.”

He also reminds us that there is such a thing as ecological debt between the global north and south, and the poorer nations have a right to assistance to help them deal with climate change and promote sustainable development.

He implores people to ask themselves what kind of world they want to bequeath to their children and generations to come, and to remember that acting to do something to improve their lot is indeed an act of mercy.

He then quotes St. James as saying that, “Mercy without works is dead.”

Pope Francis’ message, which is clearly addressed to people of all faiths and none, as evidenced by its plain and simple language and the absence of sexist references, concludes with a call to the whole of humanity to act in a prophetic manner.

He calls care for God’s creation a call to goodness, which encourages a prophetic lifestyle capable of deep enjoyment free from obsession with consumption.

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