Pope: Repent before Earth Reaches Breaking Point

With many areas of the Earth in ecological crisis, Pope Francis urges a conversion to sustainability in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Humanity can no longer ignore the cries of the earth that is suffering due to greed and the excessive consumption of its resources, Pope Francis said. In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, the pope said the current climate crisis is a call for men and women, especially Christians, to “repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.”

“The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience,” he wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican July 21.

The theme of the World Day of Prayer for Creation, which will be celebrated Sept. 1, is “Listen to the voice of creation.”

Reflecting on the theme, the pope said that there is “a kind of dissonance” when one listens to the “voice of creation.”

“On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home,” he said.

The pope said the earth has fallen “prey to our consumerist excesses” and to a “tyrannical anthropocentrism,” an attitude in which people think they are the center of the universe. Such an attitude is at odds “with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation.”

Exaggerated self-centeredness, he said, has led to the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of countless species and has greatly impacted the lives of the poor and vulnerable indigenous populations.

“As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, provoking a cry that rises up to heaven,” he said.

Furthermore, the pope said, younger generations feel “menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions” and are “anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.”

Pope Francis said the Vatican’s July 6 accession to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement was made “in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.”

1) An aerial view shows a deforested plot of the Amazon rainforest in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, July 8, 2022, one of many areas of the Earth in ecological crisis. (CNS photo/Bruno Kelly) 2) A man walks on the dry riverbed of the Sangone River, a tributary of the Po River, in Beinasco, Turin, Italy, June 19, 2022. Italy is experiencing its worst drought in 70 years. (CNS photo/Massimo Pinca, Reuters)

While the goal of limiting the increase of the earth’s temperature “is quite demanding,” the pope said it also serves as a “call for responsible cooperation between all nations” to confront the climate crisis by reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Presenting the pope’s message at the Vatican press office July 21, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said Pope Francis’ message served as a call for bolder action by world leaders attending “this year’s COP27 and COP15 summits on climate change and biodiversity.”

“The planet already is 1.2°C hotter, yet new fossil fuel projects every day accelerate our race toward the precipice,” Cardinal Czerny said. “Enough is enough. All new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas must immediately end, and existing production of fossil fuels must be urgently phased out.”

In his message, the pope highlighted the need to change “models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles” and transform them into something respectful of creation and integral human development. “Underlying all this,” the pope wrote, “there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting the creative love of God, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.”

“The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change,” the pope added.

He also expressed his hope that the COP15 summit on the earth’s biodiversity, which will be in December in Montreal, will adopt new agreements that will “halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.”

Emphasizing the principles needed to prevent “the further collapse of biodiversity,” the pope appealed to the mining, oil, forestry, real estate and agribusiness industries to “stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.”

“How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an ‘ecological debt’ incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries,” Pope Francis said.

“Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant, albeit ‘diversified’ responsibilities in this regard,” he added. “Delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act. It is necessary for all of us to act decisively. For we are reaching a breaking point.”

Featured image: Smoke rises from brick factories in the town of Nahrawan in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, 2022. Pope Francis issued a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation Sept. 1, calling for a “covenant” between humans and the earth. (CNS photo/Thaier al-Sudani, Reuters)

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