VATICAN CITY (CNS) — 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, which will be 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.
Presenting the pope’s message at a news conference at the Vatican May 25, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, provided a few examples of what people can do.
He said people can: organize community screenings of the film, “The Letter: A Message for Our Earth,” which is available free on YouTube Originals and TheLetterFilm.org; join the Laudato Si’ Action Platform at laudatosiactionplatform.org; and join networks such as Caritas and the Laudato Si’ Movement.
Tomás Insua, executive director of the Laudato Si’ Movement, said at the news conference that “while most other global leaders, particularly the most powerful ones, remain lukewarm and subservient in way too many cases to corporate interests, Pope Francis continues to be a beacon of moral leadership on this critical issue.”