Pope proposes care for creation as a new work of mercy

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Calling for concrete actions
that benefit human life and the environment, Pope Francis proposed adding
the care and protection of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works
of mercy.

As a spiritual work of mercy, the pope said,
care for creation requires “a grateful contemplation of God’s world,”
while as a corporal work, it calls for “simple daily gestures which break
with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”

The pope reflected on the need for an
integral ecology in Christian life in his message for the World Day of Prayer
for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1.

The message, titled “Show Mercy to our
Common Home,” reflects on the day of prayer as an occasion for Christians to
“reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation” and to
thank God “for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our

Presenting the pope’s message at a news conference Sept. 1,
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace, said the day of prayer follows the example of the Orthodox Church, which initiated the prayer day
in 1989.

Pope Francis’ message, the cardinal told
journalists, calls on Christians to be “honest with ourselves” and
acknowledge that “when we hurt the earth, we also hurt the poor” and
thus commit “a sin against creation, against the poor and 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,” Cardinal Turkson said.

In his message, the pope said concern for
the planet’s future unites
religious leaders and organizations and draws attention to “the
moral and spiritual crisis” that is at the heart of environmental

“Christians or not, as people of faith
and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common
home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and
communion,” the pope said.

Pollution and global warming, due partly to
human activity, he said,
has turned the beauty of God’s creation into a “polluted wasteland”
that impacts the world’s poor, who have suffered the brunt of
“irresponsible and selfish behavior.”

“As an integral ecology emphasizes,
human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat
nature, we also mistreat human beings,” the pope said.

The Year of Mercy, he added, offers
Christians an opportunity to experience not only an interior conversion but
also an “ecological conversion,” one that recognizes “our
responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation and the Creator.”

The first step on the path of conversion is
to reflect on the harm done to creation by lifestyles inspired by “a distorted culture of
which brings about a “disordered desire to consume more than what is
really necessary,” he said.

conversion, the pope said, requires a serious examination of conscience, recognizing one’s sins
“against the Creator, against creation and against our brothers and
sisters,” and sincere

conversion and repentance are shown by a firm resolve
to change course and bring about concrete actions that respect creation, such
as energy conservation, recycling and caring concern for others.

“We must not think that these efforts
are too small to improve our world. They call for a goodness which, albeit
unseen, inevitably tends to spread and encourage a prophetic and contemplative
lifestyle,” he wrote.

A change of course also requires governments
to take steps to protect the environment. While praising the adoption of the 2015
Sustainable Development Goals, Pope Francis called on world leaders to honor
their commitments in halting the rise of global temperatures and on citizens to
hold them accountable and “advocate for even more ambitious goals.”

Pope Francis said that adding care for creation to
the corporal and spiritual works of mercy acknowledges human life and everything that surrounds
it as “an object of mercy.”

“In our rapidly changing and
increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing,”
Pope Francis said. “In response to them, we need to be creative in
developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as concrete
expressions of the way of mercy.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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