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VATICAN CITY — People must end the “senseless war against creation” and help victims of environmental and climate injustice, Pope Francis said.
“We must do this by resolving to transform our hearts, our lifestyles and the public policies ruling our societies,” the pope said in his message for the 2023 World Day of Prayer for Creation.
Some injustices needing immediate responses are “economic policies that promote scandalous wealth for a privileged few and degrading conditions for many others,” the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures, and “predatory industries” depleting and polluting freshwater sources, he wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican May 25.
The World Day of Prayer for Creation, celebrated Sept. 1, marks the start of the ecumenical Season of Creation. The season concludes Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology. The theme for 2023 is “Let justice and peace flow,” based on the verse from Book of Amos (5:24), “Let justice surge like waters and righteousness like an unfailing stream.”
The verse describes how God wants justice to reign and to “flow forth wherever it is needed,” the pope said in his message.
“God wants everyone to strive to be just in every situation, to live according to His laws and thus to enable life to flourish,” he wrote. When the faithful keep “a right relationship with God, humanity and nature, then justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.”
The pope recalled his visit to the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta, Canada, in July 2022, and how many generations of Indigenous peoples found consolation and strength there. It is imperative, he added, that people “harmonize our own rhythms of life with those of creation, which gives us life.”
Unfortunately, he wrote, the heartbeats of so many people do not beat in harmony with the heartbeat of creation and God; “they are not harmonized in justice and peace.”
Too many people “are prevented from drinking from that mighty river,” the pope wrote. “Let us heed our call to stand with the victims of environmental and climate injustice and to put an end to the senseless war against creation.”
Some effects of that war include polluted waterways and rivers drying up, he wrote.
“Consumerist greed, fueled by selfish hearts, is disrupting the planet’s water cycle,” he wrote. “The unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests are pushing temperatures higher and leading to massive droughts.”
“Moreover, predatory industries are depleting and polluting our freshwater sources through extreme practices such as fracking for oil and gas extraction, unchecked mega-mining projects and intensive animal farming,” he added.
Christians can “contribute to the mighty river of justice and peace in this season of creation” by transforming hearts, lifestyles and public policies, he wrote.
Individuals must rediscover creation as a gift of love from God and repent of their own personal “ecological sins,” he said in his message. “Let us adopt lifestyles marked by less waste and unnecessary consumption,” put an end to unjust economic policies and phase out fossil fuel development and dependency.
World leaders who will gather for the COP28 summit in Dubai Nov. 30-Dec. 12, he wrote, “must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel.”
Based on the commitments nations made with the Paris Agreement to restrain global warming, “it is absurd to permit the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures,” he added.
“We can and we must prevent the worst from happening,” Pope Francis said. People must come together “like so many streams, brooks and rivulets, merging finally in a mighty river to irrigate the life of our marvelous planet and our human family for generations to come.”
“Let us join hands and take bold steps to ‘let justice and peace flow’ throughout our world,” he wrote.
Second “Laudato Si’”
Pope Francis confirmed plans to publish a “second Laudato Si’,” which is expected to update and expand on his 2015 encyclical on the environment.
Greeting visitors in the Paul VI audience hall after his weekly general audience Aug. 30, the pope drew attention to the World Day of Prayer for Creation Sept. 1, the beginning of the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation ends Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis Assisi.
“On that date I intend to publish an exhortation, a second Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis said. The document will be the sixth apostolic exhortation of his pontificate and the first since his February 2020 post-synodal exhortation on the Amazon.
To conclude his weekly audience, the pope asked Catholics to join with “our Christian brothers and sisters in the commitment to caring for creation as a sacred gift of the Creator.”
“It is necessary to side with the victims of environmental and climate injustices, striving to end the senseless war on our common home, which is a global, terrible war,” he said.
The pope had mentioned the upcoming document Aug. 21 when he met with a group of lawyers; he said he was preparing the document as a “second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems.”
The Season of Creation grew out of the observance of the day of prayer, which originated in the Orthodox Church and was added to the Catholic Church’s calendar by Pope Francis in 2015. In his message for this year’s celebration, the pope called on world leaders attending the U.N. climate summit in Dubai to “institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel.”
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