, 05 September, 2020 / 6:00 PM
Pope Francis said Thursday that science and faith together can help humanity to overcome ecological crises.
Addressing a delegation of French ecological experts Sept. 3, the pope said that the Catholic Church was committed to defending the planet from exploitation.
“It has no ready-made solutions to propose and does not ignore the difficulties of the technical, economic and political issues at stake, nor all the efforts that this commitment entails,” the pope said in a speech that was handed out to the delegation.
“But it wants to act concretely where this is possible, and above all wants to form consciences in order to promote a deep and lasting ecological conversion, which alone can meet the important challenges we face.”
The pope told the delegation, which was led by Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, that the Christian commitment to the environment was rooted in the Bible.
He wrote: “With regard to this ecological conversion, I would like to share with you the way in which the convictions of faith offer Christians great motivations for the protection of nature, as well as of the most vulnerable brothers and sisters, because I am certain that science and faith, which propose different approaches to reality, can develop an intense and fruitful dialogue.”
“The Bible teaches us that the world was not born of chaos or chance, but of a decision of God who called it, and always calls it, into existence, out of love. The universe is beautiful and good, and contemplating it allows us to glimpse the infinite beauty and goodness of its Author.”
“Each creature, even the most ephemeral, is the object of the tenderness of the Father, who gives it a place in the world. The Christian can only respect the work that the Father has entrusted to him, like a garden to cultivate, to be protected, to grow according to its potential.”
The pope added: “There will be no new relationship with nature without a new human being, and it is by healing the human heart that one can hope to heal the world from its social and environmental unrest.”
Those present at the audience included the Academy Award-winning actor Juliette Binoche.
In a Sept. 2 interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Binoche said that, although she was not a Catholic, she was visiting the Vatican “in a spirit of openness.”
“I see this as a moment of sharing. I read the encyclical Laudato si’ on ecology and it was a breath of fresh air for me,” she said.
According to Le Figaro, other members of the delegation included Audrey Pulvar, deputy mayor of Paris; Valérie Cabanes, a lawyer who helped to found the movement End Ecocide on Earth; Maxime de Rostolan, an ecological entrepreneur and founder of the organizations Fermes d’avenir, Blue Bees and Communitrees; Fr. Gaël Giraud, an economist and Jesuit priest; Pablo Servigne, co-author of the book “Comment tout peut s’effondrer” (How Everything Can Collapse”); and Raphaël Cornu-Thénard, an architect and lay Catholic.
The pope ended his written address by encouraging the visitors to redouble their efforts to protect the environment.
He said: “While the conditions of the planet can appear catastrophic and certain situations even seem irreversible, we Christians do not lose hope because we have our eyes turned to Jesus Christ. He is God, the Creator himself, who came to visit his creation and to dwell among us, to heal us, to restore the harmony that we have lost, harmony among brothers and harmony with nature.”
Quoting Laudato si’, he concluded: “He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”
In off-the-cuff remarks to the French delegation, released later on Sept. 3 by the Holy See press office, the pope spoke of his own “ecological conversion.”
He said: “In 2007 there was the Conference of the Latin American Bishops in Brazil, in Aparecida. I was in the group of editors of the final document, and proposals on the Amazon arrived. I said: ‘But these Brazilians, why do they bother with this Amazon! What does the Amazon have to do with evangelization?’ This was me in 2007. Then, in 2015 Laudato si’ came out. I had a path of conversion, of understanding the ecological problem. I didn’t understand anything before!”
Discussing the genesis of Laudato si’, he recalled a conversation with the then French environment minister Ségolène Royale, who urged him to release the document before a 2015 conference that would negotiate the Paris Agreement on combating climate change.
He said that he contacted those who were drafting the encyclical.
“I called the team that was doing it -- so that you know that I didn’t write this myself, it was a team of scientists, a team of theologians and all together we made this reflection -- I called this team and I said: ‘This must come out before the meeting in Paris’ -- ‘But why?’ -- ‘To put pressure.’”
He continued: “When I began to think about this encyclical, I called the scientists -- a nice group -- and I told them: ‘Tell me the things that are clear and that are proven and not hypotheses, the realities.’ And they brought these things that you read there today. Then, I called a group of philosophers and theologians [and told them]: ‘I would like to reflect on this. You work and dialogue with me.’ And they did the first job, then I intervened.”
“And, in the end, I did the final editing. This is the origin. But I want to underline this: from not understanding anything, to Aparecida, in 2007, to the encyclical. Of this I like to give testimony. We must work so that everyone has this path of ecological conversion.”
This report has been updated to include the pope’s off-the-cuff remarks to the French delegation
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa