Environmentalism part of promoting peace, says Pope

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • December 18, 2009
{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - The degradation of the environment is a pressing moral problem that threatens peace and human life itself, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one part of the planet affects us all,” the Pope said in his message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1.

Pope Benedict’s message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican Dec. 15.

Government policies, the activity of multinational corporations and the day-to-day behaviour of individuals all have an impact on the environment, the Pope said. While the future of the world hangs in the balance because of what people are doing today, the negative effects of pollution and environmental exploitation already can be seen, he said.

“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions?” the Pope asked.

Already, he said, the world is seeing the “growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees,’ people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat” to migrate in search of food, water and unpolluted air.

“It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view.”

In addition, he warned of the “actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources.”

“Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all,” the Pope wrote.

Presenting the message to the press, Cardinal Renato Martino, the recently retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Pope Benedict “does not propose technical solutions or interfere in government policies. Rather, he recalls the church’s commitment to defending the Earth, water and air, which are the Creator’s gifts to humanity.”

With the real suffering environmental destruction already is causing and the devastation it will wreak in the future, the Pope’s message said, “humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all.”

“Our present crises — be they economic, food-related, environmental or social — are ultimately also moral crises and all of them are interrelated,” Pope Benedict wrote.

Solving the crises will require people to work together and take responsibility for their individual actions, he said. Specifically, a solution will require “a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed.”

Christians believe the entire cosmos was created by God, who drew harmony out of chaos, the Pope said.

When the Bible said that God made man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over the Earth, he said, it meant God called them to be stewards of creation, drawing from the Earth what they needed and safeguarding its riches for future generations.

An authentic Christian ecology, one that recognizes the special place of the human person, is one that recognizes “the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature,” Pope Benedict said.

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