In another impassioned plea, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a joint statement Sept. 1 on World Day of Prayer for Creation, which Catholics and Orthodox have jointly observed since 2015. In it they reminded all men and women of goodwill of the responsibility each of us has to care for creation.
“The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, ‘in the end,’ all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10),” they wrote. “Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.”
But instead of living up to this responsibility, history “reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behavior toward creation obscures our calling as God’s cooperators.”
“Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets — all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation,” they wrote. “We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.”
As a result, they said, the environment is deteriorating, and the poorest of the poor are paying for it. As in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for creation, he points to climate change as affecting “those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe.”
“Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures,” they continue. “The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development.”
I don’t need to tell you that the topics of environmental care and climate change are fraught with debate and division in our country and, unfortunately, within our Church. But whether or not we all can come to a consensus on the roots or effects of climate change — or on any potential political solutions — we probably can agree that caring for the earth, our great gift from God, is not getting our full attention.
Perhaps as we enter into the new school year — as the beauty of another autumn bids us welcome with its falling leaves and crisp temperatures — each of us can commit to doing one thing to make our corner of the earth just a bit more tidy. For me, it will be using fewer plastic utensils — or recycling the ones already used. A small thing, but a step in the right direction.
And in doing so, we answer our faith leaders’ request to committing to the “care and preservation (of creation) for the sake of future generations.”
Share with me your commitment to care for creation this fall: firstname.lastname@example.org.