(Vatican Radio) The Message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Prayer for Creation was presented on Thursday at a Press Conference in the Holy See Press Office.
Presentations were given by the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson; the Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Bishop Brian Farrell; and the author of the book The Guardian of Mercy, Terence Ward.
The full text of the prepared remarks are below
Press Conference / Conferenza Stampa, 1.09.2016
Presentation of the Message of Pope Francis, “Show Mercy to our Common Home” for the celebration of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson
Last year, following the launch of his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church would follow the good example our Orthodox brothers and sisters and institute a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.” This is in recognition of the leadership of the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has long understood that when human beings abuse the gifts of creation, they commit sin. The idea of a common day of prayer for our common home came at the suggestion of his representative, my brother Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon, who—to my great joy—came to Rome to help launch the encyclical last year. We also stand together with other Christian communities and with other religions too—because care for our common home is something that truly unites us all.
When Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church would also mark this day of prayer for creation, he noted that it would “offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
So for a first papal message for the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to come during this Jubilee Year of Mercy is very appropriate. For we are being asked to show mercy to our common home—to acknowledge and repent for our sins against creation, and to amend our ways through the merciful grace of God.
The first step in this process is to humbly acknowledge the harm we are doing to the earth through pollution, the scandalous destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, and the spectre of climate change—which seems nearer and more dangerous with each passing year. And to realize that when we hurt the earth, we also hurt the poor, whom God loves without limit.
Pope Francis is asking us to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that this is sin—sin against creation, against the poor, against those who have not yet been born. This means that we must examine our consciences and repent. I realize that this is not the way we traditionally think about sin. These are sins, Pope Francis says, that “we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed.”
But we are now called upon to do so. This means we need to take a long and hard look at our lifestyles, especially when they reflect a “disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.”
But it goes even deeper. A genuine examination of conscience would recognize not only our individual failings but also our institutional failings. As Pope Francis says, “we are participants in a system that ‘has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.’” This implicates all of us in one way or another.
If we truly desire to repent, we can confess our sins against the Creator, creation, and our brothers and sisters. And “the merciful grace of God received in the sacrament will help us to do so.”
Once we have done this, Pope Francis says, we are ready to amend our lives and change course. This adjustment also has an individual and institutional dimension. Individually, we are called to “ecological conversion” in our daily lives. We should not think that our efforts—even our small gestures—don’t matter. Virtue, including ecological virtue, can be infectious—one person’s good example can encourage others to do better.
Yet individual initiative, important though it is, is not sufficient to turn the ship around. Ecological conversion entails not only individual conversion, but community conversion too. We need a conversion of economics and politics—away from an obsession with short-term and self-centred financial or electoral gains, and toward a true appreciation of the common good.
This is brought into stark relief when we consider the sustainable development agenda. Pope Francis praises the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change last year. But for this agenda to succeed, it will require a heroic amount of political will and a heroic effort by business and economic interests. This too is part of what Pope Francis means by a “firm purpose of amendment.”
Yet are we seeing that adjustment? Are we amending our ways? On climate change, the global community has drawn a red line under a rise in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius. This is will require a complete shift away from fossil fuels toward renewables by about 2070. This is a momentous undertaking. But have we as a society truly deliberated on what this means, and what it will take to get there? We have not. And the Paris Agreement puts 2 degrees Celsius as the upper limit, and asks us to try to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead. This is exponentially more difficult, and it will require an even stronger “firm purpose of amendment.” Are we up to the task?
This is the responsibility of all of us. Pope Francis says it is up to citizens to insist that these commitments are honoured, and to advocate for more ambitious goals. As one example from Laudato Si’, he suggests that social pressure—including from boycotting certain products—can force businesses to consider their environmental footprint and patterns of production. The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment movement.
Let us also not forget the global solidarity dimension. As part of paying down their “ecological debt” to their poorer neighbours, richer countries need to provide them with needed financial and technical support. This too is a component of the “firm purpose of amendment.”
Following this amendment of our lives and institutions, Pope Francis is calling us toward a new work of mercy. For as he says, “nothing unites us to God more than an act of mercy, for it is by mercy that the Lord forgives our sins and gives us the grace to practice acts of mercy in his name.” This is really the final step of ecological conversion, a true internalization of an ecological sensibility. So we are being asked to complement both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy with care for our common home.
To sum up, then: this Message is the next logical step after Laudato Si’, for it is showing us how to internalize its teaching in our lives and in our world. It is asking us to live Laudato Si’! Are we ready to respond to the Holy Father’s invitation – and challenge?
Press Conference for the presentation of Pope Francis’ Message
for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
1 September 2016
Bishop Brian Farrell
All Christians, East and West, pray that God will continue to sustain and bless the work of his hands “until all the earth sings the praises of his Name” (cf. Psalm 66). Christians of all traditions are familiar with prayers for the harvest, for rain, for the end of shortage or for help during natural disasters. For example, the Roman Book of Blessings provides blessings for fields and flocks, our homes, food, and more. To bless is to recognize that everything – the whole of creation and all its parts – are a gift of God’s inexpressible love, a gift he entrusted to our human care and labour as the way of providing for common human needs.
It is a great sign of ecumenical progress that Christians in all churches are joining together in prayer at the same time to praise God for his work, to seek his protection of it and to re-commit themselves to safeguarding it.
In the time of the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios (1989), the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to dedicate 1 September, the beginning of the liturgical year in the Orthodox calendar, to prayer for the safeguarding of creation. On that day the Orthodox liturgy reads the biblical account of the creation of the world.
For his part Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew has given particular attention to the theme of the care of creation, so much so that he has been called “the green Patriarch”. Among the initiatives he has promoted are the scientific Conferences on the island of Chalki and the inter-Christian Symposia on the safeguarding of the precious resource of water, with the participation of Catholic representatives.
Patriarch Bartholomews’s engagement was underlined in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sì. For this reason Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas was invited to take part in the press conference to present the encyclical in June of last year.
On that occasion Metropolitan Zizioulas launched the idea of a joint day of prayer for the care of creation.
The Holy Father gladly took up the idea and last year established the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in the Catholic Church, to be celebrated each year on 1 September, coinciding with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Throughout the Christian world, the Holy Father’s decision was greatly appreciated.
The World Council of Churches had already dedicated the period between 1 September and 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis, to prayer and reflection on safeguarding creation. The Anglican Communion too celebrates such a day on 1 September. The day dedicated to prayer for the care of creation by the Moscow Patriarchate is the first Sunday of September, because 1 September is already a holiday for the opening of the school year.
The fact is that there is broad ecumenical agreement on this important issue. Significantly for this year, the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, uses a video message to encourage the faithful of the member churches to pray for this intention. Likewise, the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences together with the Conference of European Churches and the European Christian Environmental Network have published a common message.
The hope is that on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation members of all confessions will come together for prayer and collaboration in common actions regarding this issue, also at the diocesan and parochial levels.
In today’s Message, Show Mercy to Our Common Home, the Holy Father underlines the connection between our responsibility towards creation and our prayer and reflection during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He calls us to conversion: to name and deal with the selfishness that has caused a disproportionate over-use of the world’s resources, to deepen repentance, and to cultivate a “merciful heart.” These are the very sentiments that fill the Orthodox “Vespers for the Preservation of Creation”, a very beautiful prayer of praise and supplication to God for the earth and all its inhabitants.
In sharing that prayer, conversion and “merciful heart”, Christians are united at a very deep level in spite of the visible divisions between them. This spiritual communion motivates them to do things together to answer the challenge of safeguarding the environment by ‘changing course’. As today’s Message says, our culture of prosperity is distorted and our desire to consume more than what is really necessary is disordered. We must change our attitudes and our actions. All Christians together are called to make this change.
Intervention of di Terence Ward, author of the book The Guardian of Mercy
On a day of creation and being Irish, I could not avoid sporting some green.
I was invited to briefly speak on this “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” because of my recent book The Guardian of Mercy , Il guardiano della Misericordia. The story centers on a Caravaggio masterpiece in Naples called The Seven Acts of Mercy and how it changed the life of its Guardian. This story happens to also be in remarkable harmony with the Pope’s message.
All sacred traditions speak to Compassion and Human Solidarity which remain the cornerstone of every faith. Voices echo across great distances and time, chanting the same refrain. From the Torah to the Koran, from the Annalects to the words of Ashoka. And, in our New Testament.
Originally, in Matthew 25, there were 6 acts of mercy: Jesus said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
In the medieval period, a 7th was added, Burying the Dead.
In our modern times, we have all seen Pope Francis perform all these acts of mercy. And now he has added an 8th work of mercy. And, HE SHARES IT WITH THE ENTIRE WORLD -- Caring for our Common Home. Groundbreaking and Visionary. Ecumenical and Ecological.
ONE COULD ARGUE THAT THIS IS THE HIGHEST WORK OF MERCY because it includes all the others. A modern work of mercy for our modern epoch. Ecumenical above all. And deeply linked to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople who has long spoken about the ecological sin of harming creation. In turn, Pope Francis has focused on the devastation of the environment and the suffering of the poor”. He asks us to” hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
TODAY, Pope Francis renews his dialogue with “EVERY PERSON LIVING ON THIS PLANET,” a dialogue that he began in Laudato Si.
And NOW it is perfectly clear why his Encyclical was released during this Year of Mercy.
WE ARE ALL TIED TOGETHER. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND. We ARE BOUND TO CREATION AS STEWARDS of CREATION.
The secular French philosopher Edgar Morin hailed LAUDATO SI as a “call for a new civilization.” Bill McKibben, the noted ecologist, says “it may be the most important document in recent times.”
The Pope’s vision reaches far beyond any political labels. His critique is not simply an environmental treatise. It is a breathtaking moral, social, economic, and spiritual commentary on our modern epoch; fundamentally questioning our style of life.
“Intergenerational solidarity is not optional,” he reminds us, “the world we received also belongs to those who will follow us.”
And with this announcement today, Pope Francis cements his Year of Mercy by adding to his powerful message in Laudato Si.
1. THE FIRST STEP. THE HOLY FATHER TODAY CALLS TO US TO EXAMINE OUR CONSCIENCE.
Be aware that we are not disconnected from the rest of nature but joined in universal communion. Acknowledge our contribution, big or small, in the destruction of creation.
2. THE SECOND STEP IS TO BEGIN TO CHANGE COURSE
Think of concrete actions, however small. Avoid plastic, reduce water, separate your garbage, use public transport, help others, and turn off lights.
Never think that these are too small. Seek a way to enjoy life’s gifts while controlling consumption. Shun short-term thinking in both business and politics, quick financial gain or electoral greed.
Begin to consider a lifestyle that cares for Nature. The Common Good.
And ask what sort of world we want to leave behind.
DO WE WANT TO TRY TO BE GOOD ANCESTORS
3. EMBRACE THIS NEW WORK OF MERCY
Nothing elevates us more than an act of mercy. The objective is sacred-- human life and all it embraces.
Simple daily gestures break the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.
On the larger scale, Citizens should absolutely insist that their govts. and companies act responsibly to honor the Paris Climate Change Agreement…and should advocate for more ambitious goals.
Governor Jerry Brown of California, at the Conference of Mayors here last year said: “we need to think of instances where radical change occurred. Being right here in Rome where we can walk through the ruins of a great Roman Empire gives us an example. It was defeated not by another empire, but by 12 Galileans who had no money, who didn’t even speak Latin, but who began the process of taking down the Empire and replacing it with Christianity.”
And we need to remember it was Gandhi, who overthrew the British Empire. A man with a little cloth wrapped around his body, who now speaks more about where we are than Winston Churchill or any politician.”
So, our Holy Father’s message is embrace this NEW WORK OF MERCY – large and small - care for the common home.
My final question is how would Caravaggio have rendered this 8th work of Mercy into his masterpiece? I leave this for you to imagine….