IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Tracy
By Tom Tracy
(CNS) — Pope Francis’ right-hand man on the environment and climate change
issues urged Catholics attending a local academic conference to let Christian
spirituality guide their thinking and actions toward preserving the full range
of God’s creation.
Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke
Feb. 19 in Miami at St. Thomas University as part of the school’s two-day International
Conference on Climate, Nature & Society. The event was spearheaded by the
university’s Institute for Bioethics.
conference tackled the science and social impact of ecological change with
talks from leading experts in the field along with Cardinal Turkson,
who recently made several U.S. stops last week in the Vatican’s efforts to
promote Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care
for Our Common Home.”
addition to being a scriptural scholar, Cardinal Turkson is credited with
helping to draft “Laudato Si’,” the first papal encyclical in the
2,000-year history of the Catholic Church devoted solely to environmental and
mankind’s collective responsibility to pass along a clean and safe planet to
is urgent that we change our sense of progress, our management of the economy
and our style of life,” Cardinal Turkson said at the outset of his
remarks, echoing Pope Francis’ appeal for a “new ethical and spiritual
itinerary to reduce our footprint and reverse the deterioration of the natural
and social environment.”
Turkson has been likened to a touring “rock star” bringing forward the concepts
discussed in “Laudato Si'” and the “the way the encyclical
challenges human, social conscience.”
document touches on such important areas related to human activity such as
urban planning, overconsumption and human trafficking and they affect both
humankind and the environment.
require shifts in thinking, the cardinal told the audience, which included
students from several local Catholic high schools along with Miami Archbishop
Thomas G. Wenski and several clergy and religious leaders of the Miami Archdiocese
and of St. Thomas University.
Francis has a very deep sense of trust and belief in the ability of humanity to
do things for the better, according to Cardinal Turkson. “To make such
change will require major shifts in our thinking and commitments, indeed a
conversion of every individual and of groups and institutions at every level
from local to global and all of us in humanity.”
Francis asks us to consider what is happening to our common home, and he
proposes an integral ecology that is natural but is also human and even social,
and then bring this home to see what is happening in the United States and in
Florida and what can be done by a university like St. Thomas University,”
the cardinal said, noting the role of the church and Catholic academia.
Francis invites us to feel
the pain of the planet and of the poor, and to resolve to change,
calling us to a certain amount of compassion to what is happening to our home
and to the poor ones in our midst,” he said. “Our sins do impact on
the earth and the earth’s surface as a result of the way we treat the
cardinal touched on a list of fragile global communities and shorelines —
including that of Miami Beach along with rainforest, desert and Pacific island
communities — which scientists have identified as being under threat of
environmental changes, rising sea levels and changes in precipitation.
the correlation between our own spiritualities and our treatment of the
environment, Cardinal Turkson said our conscience is the “seat and home”
of a conversion.
care of our common home, as Pope Francis sees it, can never be achieved by
individual initiatives or by the united efforts of men bred in an individualist
way. It calls for a union of skills and unity of achievement of that can only
grow from a quiet and different attitude,” he said.
problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of
good ideas, which means that for Pope Francis ecological conversation becomes
community conversation undergirded by a very sound and profound spirituality,”
Cardinal Turkson said.
Francis recognizes that a commitment to this lofty idea cannot be sustained by
mere doctrine, it must be sustained by spirituality, that interior impulse that
encourages, motives, nourishes and gives meaning to our individual and communal
a separate conversation with local media, Cardinal Turkson said the Vatican is
welcoming a dialogue with U.S. industry and business leaders who are interested
in furthering Pope Francis’ conversation and challenge to protect the
environment, including U.S.-based solar companies.
are the works, he said, for a gathering at the Vatican in April for business
and church leaders to discuss ecological issues.
conference organizer was Father Alfred Cioffi, a Miami archdiocesan priest, who holds the university’s Florida
Blue endowed chair in bioethics and is director of St. Thomas’ Institute for
Bioethics. He said he hopes the conference educates people, but more importantly,
unleashes actions and ideas to curb global climate change.
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