Women carry children as they make their way through a flooded area Aug. 20 in Bogra, Bangladesh. CNS photo/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters

Pope, Patriarch plea together for ‘our wounded creation’

  • September 9, 2017

In the first ever joint letter between Christianity’s two most senior leaders, Pope Francis has joined with Patriarch Bartholomew to warn of a “morally decaying scenario” and beg world leaders to work towards “the healing of our wounded creation.”

The letter, dated Sept. 1 to mark the World Day of Prayer for Creation, was issued as Canada’s Catholic bishops released a new 30-page study guide to Laudato Si, the Pope’s 2015 encyclical on the environment.

“Our world is falling into serious disrepair, and our way of living is threatening future life on the planet,” said the Canadian Conference of Bishops in their introduction to “Living Out Laudato Si.”

Pope Francis and Bartholomew have long been allied on questions of ecology. The Patriarch of Constantinople, who leads 300 million Orthodox Christians, is often called “the green patriarch.”

“The Earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy,” the Pope and patriarch wrote. “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.

“We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession,” the two leaders said, adding that ignoring God’s plan for creation has “tragic and lasting” consequences.”

The Canadian bishops concur with the Pope and patriarch on the theological challenge.

“It has long been a fundamental teaching of Christianity that the physical universe has an important role to play in God’s plan, and our faith in spiritual things does not mean a rejection or devaluation of material realities,” wrote the Canadian bishops.

Canadians have been blessed with an abundant share of the world’s natural resources, but that blessing carries with it responsibilities, the bishops said.

“We have a special responsibility to have conversations about how we can live in a way that is sustainable and life-giving for all, and to put those plans into action,” the bishops said.

Laudato Si’ sounds an alarm about the consequences of failing to meet that responsibility.

“Our world is falling into serious disrepair, and our way of living is threatening future life on the planet. The economic inequalities within and between our nations have led to tremendous suffering. The challenge before us is urgent,” the bishops wrote.

Moral and even financial clarity on the challenge of climate change is beginning to make its way into markets. The British magazine The Economist reports that come October 29, high-powered faithbased investors will gather in the Swiss town of Zug to discuss how they can rethink their portfolios. Instead of merely avoiding bad financial commitments, they want their money in places where it will do environmental good, as well as grow.

For many bishops in poor countries, the urgency of the environmental crisis is not a theoretical debate.

“It is high time for us to really work together, especially us Filipinos, who have witnessed widespread destruction of lives, lands, and infrastructure because of the harmful effects of climate change. Among these are typhoons, extreme weather, and earthquakes,” the Philippines’ influential Cardinal Tagle told the faithful gathered in Manila for the World Day of Prayer for Creation on Sept. 1.

The World Day of Prayer for Creation, created by Patriarch Bartholomew in 1989 and adopted for Catholics by Pope Francis in 2015, kicks of a month-long Season of Creation organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement and endorsed by Pope Francis. The Season of Creation culminates with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4. St. Francis is patron saint of ecologists.

Season of Creation events planned for September across Canada include four study sessions and an outdoor stations of the cross at St. Charles Garnier Parish in Kelowna, B.C.; an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Calgary Sept. 23; a prayer service for creation at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane, Alta., Oct. 1; prayers every Tuesday morning in September at St. Patrick’s in Caledonia, Ont.; and an Indigenous- led, sacred water walk, open to people of all faiths, at Marilyn Bell Park in Toronto, Sept. 24.

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