Adhere to “fraternity” to Combat Environmental Degradation: Vatican Cardinal to AMECEA

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle addressing delegates of the 20th AMECEA Plenary Assembly in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 11 July 2022. Credit: ACI Africa

To adequately combat the destruction of the environment, there is a need to adhere to fraternal structures that entail caring for one another, a Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization has told delegates of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

In his keynote address on the third day of the 20th AMECEA Plenary Assembly,  Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle told delegates who are meeting to reflect on the care for the environment in the Eastern Africa region in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, that lack of concern for the wellbeing of others goes hand in hand with disregard for the environment.

“When human fraternity is absent, when there is a failure in human fraternity, almost automatically creation becomes misused; creation becomes a tool to compete with others, to dominate others,” Cardinal Tagle said Monday, July 11.

When human fraternity is compromised, the Cardinal further said, “Creation is not handled with respect and with gratitude; creation is not seen to develop humanity but to impoverish others; creation becomes a weapon of greed.”

“We know that a lack of fraternity or caring for other people co-exists with behaviors and practices that damage creation,” Cardinal Tagle said.


Credit: ACI Africa

He continued, “The neglect of neighbors as brothers and sisters, and the misuse of creation are mutually dependent and they reinforce each other. Pope Francis reinforces this in Laudato Si’ when he says that the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together.”

Speaking on the theme of the AMECEA Plenary Assembly, “Environmental Impact on Integral Human Development”, the Vatican-based Cardinal underlined the connection between integral human development and its aspect of universal love and Laudato Si’, “the care for our common home”.

The Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery that has merged the former Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization  noted that when there is a deterioration in human development, a deterioration is also observed in the ecological environment.

“We cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation,” he said, and added, “Let us open our eyes. Is the Biblical vision of human development through the construction of a human fraternal world happening?”

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Credit: ACI Africa

“We need not go far back into history,” Cardinal Tagle said, and explained that the recent COVID-19 pandemic had exposed social, economic and political weaknesses that he said had been existing for a long time in international relations and had remained largely ignored.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has made all of these divisions worse,” he said, further stressing that ecology and the human aspect are intertwined and that they cannot be separated.

He found it baffling that during the pandemic, people were told to wash their hands often to prevent the spread of the virus, posing, “I said, do you realize that there are places where there is no water? They don’t even have water to drink? Keep distance in a slum area? Are we aware of that? Or are we insulting those who do not have water and space to keep distance?”

The 65-year-old Filipino Cardinal said saving human beings from effects of environmental degradation requires suggestions that are sensitive to their needs.


Credit: ACI Africa

Addressing the question of conversion to justice, the Cardinal said that in the fourth chapter of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls for integral ecology or ecological justice.

“Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ says that very often the idols we have been worshiping are ourselves,” the Cardinal said.

He added, “We have made ourselves the Masters of creation. We have forgotten that we are creatures and not gods. We have forgotten that we are custodians and not owners. And when we start behaving that way towards creation, what will stop us from thinking that we are owners of other people?”

The Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in Imus Diocese in his native country of Philippines in December 2001 said that returning to God, “and avoiding being idols, especially the idol known as self, will lead to fraternity and the caring for God’s creation.”

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.