Doug Mainwaring reports for OnePeterFive –– Pope Francis declared Tuesday that the Wuhan virus outbreak has brought humanity “to a crossroads,” and is a “wake-up call” to “rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles.”
The Pope’s letter opens by acknowledging 2020 as the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. The Pope calls man to “repentance” for having “broken the bond” of his relationship with creation. His message is one of admonishment directed at industrialized nations, calling them to repentance for being poor stewards of the world’s natural resources amid what he said is a “climate emergency.”
“Our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits. Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world,” said Francis. “Creation is groaning!”
He further warned, “We are running out of time.”
In his letter marking the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,” Pope Francis called for adherence to the Paris Climate Agreement, urged support of U.N. measures to deem 30% of the Earth as protected habitats, and touted the upcoming Summit on Biodiversity (COP 15) in Kunming, China as a “turning point” in “restoring the earth to be a home of life in abundance, as willed by the Creator.”
He also called for the cancellation of debt for vulnerable countries due to the medical, social, and economic crises caused by the lockdowns.
“Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order – to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters,” said Francis. “The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption.”
The Pope had harsh words for multinational companies ––and more broadly, industrialized western economies–– twice pairing the terms “superfluous” and “destructive” in a single paragraph to describe their impact on less developed nations.
“The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads,” asserted the Pontiff. “We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.”
A ‘radical crisis’ and ‘epochal change’
“The Church needs to respond to this crisis in a radical way because it’s a radical crisis,” said the Argentine priest who said the COVID-19 crisis will speed up some of the reforms that Pope Francis is proposing for the world, according to a report by Inés San Martín in Crux.
The Vatican’s COVID-19 commission was launched by Pope Francis because he’s convinced that humanity is currently living at “a time of epochal change.”
50th anniversary of Earth Day
The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was established by Francis following the publication of the Encyclical Laudato Si’ in May, 2015. The September 1 day of prayer is followed each year by “the Season of Creation,” which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October.
The Pope said he was pleased that the theme chosen for the celebration of the 2020 Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth” since this year “marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day,” coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’.
“A Jubilee is a time to turn back in repentance,” he explained. “We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life.”
“We also rejoice to see how the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year is inspiring many initiatives at local and global levels for the care of our common home and the poor. This year should lead to long-term action plans to practise integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities, our healthcare, business and agricultural institutions, and many others as well,” said Francis.
“We rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We are particularly happy that the Season of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family,” he added.