By Anne Kurian-Montabone

It is necessary “a new way of being human”, because “it is by healing the heart of man that we can hope to heal the world of its disorders, both social and environmental,” affirms Pope Francis to a group of some 15 well-known French individuals who came to talk about ecology with him on September 3, 2020, at the Vatican.

The group included actress Juliette Binoche, researcher Pablo Servigne, director of the Collège des Bernardins Laurent Landete, and was accompanied by Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the French Bishops’ Conference.

During the meeting, the Pope did not deliver the speech prepared in advance, but handed them the official text, in which he welcomed the gradual “awareness of the urgency of the situation”, whereas ecology “begins to have an influence on political and economic choices, even if much remains to be done and if we are witnessing too much slowness and even backtracking”.

Everything is linked, he affirms: “It is the same indifference, the same egoism, the same greed, the same pride, the same pretension to believe oneself the master and the despot of the world, which carry men: of on one side to destroy species and plunder natural resources, and, on the other hand, to exploit poverty, abuse the labor of women and children, overturn the laws of the family unit, no longer respect the right to life human from conception to natural end.”

The Pope also exposes the “convictions of faith” which offer Christians “great motivations for the protection of nature, as well as the most fragile brothers and sisters.” And affirms: “Science and faith, which offer different approaches to reality, can develop an intense and fruitful dialogue. ”

Despite the “catastrophic” state of the planet, Pope Francis expresses the “hope” of Christians: “Our eyes are turned towards Jesus Christ. He is God, the Creator in person, who came to visit his creation and live among us, in order to heal us, to make us find the harmony that we have lost, harmony with our brothers, harmony with nature. ”

Speech by Pope Francis

Excellency,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to receive you, and I wish you a cordial welcome to Rome. And I thank you, Monsignor de Moulins Beaufort, for having taken the initiative of this meeting following the reflections that the Conference of Bishops of France led around the Encyclical Laudato si’, reflections in which many committed speakers participated for the ecological cause.

We are part of a single human family, called to live in a common home, the disturbing degradation of which we observe together. The health crisis that humanity is currently going through reminds us of our fragility. We understand to what extent we are linked to each other, inserted in a world whose future we share, and that mistreating it can only lead to serious consequences, not only environmental, but also social and human.

It is fortunate that an awareness of the urgency of the situation is now appearing everywhere, that the theme of ecology more and more permeates mentalities at all levels and begins to have an influence on political choices. and economic, even if there is still much to do and if we are witnessing too much slowness and even backtracking. For her part, the Catholic Church wants to be fully involved in the commitment to safeguard the common home. It has no ready-made solutions to propose and it is not unaware of the difficulties of the technical, economic and political stakes, nor of all the efforts which this commitment entails. But it wants to act concretely where possible, and it wants above all to educate the conscience in order to promote a deep and lasting ecological conversion,

On this question of ecological conversion, I would like to share with you how the convictions of faith offer Christians great motivations for the protection of nature, as well as the most fragile brothers and sisters, because I am sure that science and faith, which offer different approaches to reality, can develop an intense and fruitful dialogue (cf. Laudato si ‘, n. 62).

The Bible teaches us that the world was not born of chaos or chance, but of a decision of God who called it and always calls it into existence, out of love. The universe is beautiful and good, its contemplation allows us to glimpse the infinite beauty and goodness of its Author. Each creature, even the most ephemeral, is the object of the Father’s tenderness who gives him a place in the world. The Christian can only respect the work that his Father has entrusted to him as a garden to cultivate, to protect, to develop in its potential. And if man has the right to use nature for his purposes, he cannot, in any way, believe the owner or the despot, but only the steward who will be accountable for his management. In this garden that God offers us, men are called to live in harmony in justice, peace and fraternity, the evangelical ideal proposed by Jesus (cf. LS, n. 82). And when one considers nature only as an object of profit and interest – a vision that consolidates the arbitrariness of the strongest – then harmony is broken and serious inequalities, injustices and suffering appear.

Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Not only was the earth given by God to man, who must use it with respect for the original, good intention in which it was given, but man, he too, is given by God to himself and he must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed ”(Centesimus annus, n. 38). Everything is therefore linked. It is the same indifference, the same egoism, the same greed, the same pride, the same pretension to believe themselves the master and the despot of the world, which lead men: on the one hand to destroy species and plunder natural resources, and, on the other hand, to exploit poverty, abuse the work of women and children, overturn the laws of the family unit, no longer respect the right to human life from its conception to its natural end.

Thus, “if the ecological crisis is the outbreak, an outward manifestation of an ethical, cultural, spiritual crisis, we cannot claim to heal our relationship with nature without cleaning up all the fundamental relationships of human beings” (LS , n. 119). There will therefore be no new relationship with nature without a new human being, and it is by healing the human heart that we can hope to heal the world of its social and environmental disorders.

Dear friends, I renew my encouragement to you in your efforts to save the environment. While the state of the planet may seem catastrophic and some situations even seem irreversible, we Christians always keep hope, because our eyes are turned to Jesus Christ. He is God, the Creator, who came in person to visit his creation and live among us (cf. LS nn. 96-100), in order to heal us, to restore us to the harmony that we have lost, harmony with our brothers, harmony with nature. “He does not abandon us, He does not leave us alone, because He has definitively united with our land, and His love always leads us to find new paths” (LS, n. 245).

I ask God to bless you, and please I ask you to pray for me.

Zenit working translation from French text provided by the Vatican

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