Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center
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Saint John Paul II: Quotes on Ecology and the Environment, page 8
Address To The Members Of The Agency Of The United Nations (Excerpts) August 18, 1985 It is a requirement of our human dignity, and therefore a serious responsibility, to exercise dominion over creation in such a way that it truly serves the human family. Exploitation of the riches of nature must take place according to criteria that take into account not only the immediate needs of people but also the needs of future generations. In this way, the stewardship over nature, entrusted by God to man, will not be guided by short-sightedness or selfish pursuit; rather, it will take into account the fact that all created goods are directed to the good of all humanity. The use of natural resources must aim at serving the integral development of present and future generations. Progress in the field of ecology, and growing awareness of the need to protect and conserve certain non-renewable natural resources, are in keeping with the demands of true stewardship. God is glorified when creation serves the integral development of the whole human family. With the rapid acceleration of science and technology in recent decades, the environment has been subjected to far greater changes than ever before. As a result, we are offered many new opportunities for development and human progress; we are now able to transform our surroundings greatly, even dramatically, for the enhancement of the quality of life. On the other hand, this new ability, unless it is used with wisdom and vision, can cause tremendous and even irreparable harm in the ecological and social spheres. The capacity for improving the environment and the capacity for destroying it increase enormously each year. The ultimate determining factor is the human person. It is not science and technology, or the increasing means of economic and material development, but the human person, and especially groups of persons, communities and nations, freely choosing to face the problems together, who will, under God, determine the future. That is why whatever impedes human freedom or dishonors it, such as the evil of apartheid and all forms of prejudice and discrimination, is an affront to man’s vocation to shape his own destiny. Eventually it will have repercussions in all areas requiring human freedom and as such can become a major stumbling block to the improvement of the environment and all of society. Threats to the environment today are numerous: deforestation, water and air pollution, soil erosion, desertification, acid rain and many more. Ecological problems are especially acute in the tropical regions of the world, and in particular here in Africa. Nearly all the nations affected by these problems are developing nations which are, with great difficulty, undergoing various stages of industrialization. A severe shortage of energy and natural resources impedes progress and results in harsh living conditions. And the problems are often complicated by the tropical environment which makes people especially susceptible to serious endemic diseases. Since every country has its own particular set of problems and varying amounts of natural resources, it is easy to see the difference between the problems faced by developing nations and those of developed nations. While modern industry and technology offer great hope of advancement, steps must be taken to ensure that the economic, material and social development which are so important include proper consideration of the impact on the environment, both immediate and in the future. The Catholic Church approaches the care and protection of the environment from the point of view of the human person. It is our conviction, therefore, that all ecological programs must respect the full dignity and freedom of whoever might be affected by such programs. Environment problems should be seen in relation to the needs of actual men and women, their families, their values, their unique social and cultural heritage. For the ultimate purpose of environment programs is to enhance the quality of human life, to place creation in the fullest way possible at the service of the human family. Perhaps nowhere do we see more clearly the interrelatedness of the world today than in questions concerning the environment. The growing interdependence between individuals and between nations is keenly felt when it is a question of facing natural disasters such as droughts, typhoons, floods and earthquakes. The consequences of these stretch far beyond the regions directly affected. And the vastness and complexity of many ecological problems demand not only a combined response at local and national levels but also substantial assistance and coordination from the international community. As Pope Paul VI wrote to the Stockholm Conference: “Interdependence must now be met by joint responsibility; common destiny by solidarity”. One could hardly overstate the international character of ecological problems or the international benefits of their solution. These problems often require the expertise and assistance of scientists and technicians from industrialized countries. Yet the latter cannot solve them without the cooperation at every step of scientists and technicians from the countries being helped. The transfer of technological skills to developing countries cannot be expected to have lasting results if training is not provided for technicians and scientists from these countries themselves. The training of local personnel makes it possible to adapt technology in a way that fully respects the cultural and social fabric of the local communities. Local experts possess the necessary bonds with their own people to ensure a balanced sensitivity to local values and needs. They can evaluate the continuing validity of the newly transferred skills. Only when this trained personnel finally exists locally can one speak of full collaboration between countries. I would now like to say a few words to those engaged in the work of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, and to all who are trying to improve the living conditions of the poor and provide shelter for the homeless. This work is of course closely related to the ecological problems of which I have been speaking. In fact it is at its very heart. As Pope Paul VI stated in his message to the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver in 1976: “The home, that is to say, the centre of warmth in which the family is united and the children grow in love, must remain the first concern of every program relative to the human environment” (Pauli VI Epistula ad Exc.mum Virum Berney Danson Canadensem Administrum pro Urbanis Negotiis eundemque Praesidem Conferentiae Unitarum Nationum in urbe Vancuverio instructae ad dignas hominum fovendas habitaiones, die 24 maii 1976: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XIV (1976) 401 ss.). For this reason, the Church’s primary concern for the human person in problems of the environment includes the problems of housing and shelter as well. Those who believe in Jesus Christ cannot forget his words: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matth. 8, 20). Thus we see in the faces of the homeless the face of Christ the Lord. And we feel impelled, by love of him and by his example of generous self-giving, to seek to do everything we can to help those living in conditions unworthy of their human dignity. At the same time, we gladly join hands with all people of good will in the worthy efforts being made to provide adequate housing for the millions of people in today’s world living in absolute destitution. Nor can we remain passive or indifferent as the rapid increase of urbanization and industrialization creates complex problems of housing and the environment. I assure you then of the Church’s great interest in and support for your commendable endeavors to provide housing for the homeless and to safeguard the human dimension of all settlements of people. Five years ago, on the occasion of my first Pastoral Visit to Africa, I went to Ouagadougou in the heart of the Sahel region and there launched a solemn appeal on behalf of all those suffering from the devastating drought. In the wake of that appeal there was a most generous response, so generous in fact that it became possible to set up a special program to assist the suffering in a more formal way. Thus, the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel was officially begun in February 1984. This Foundation is a sign of the Church’s love for the men, women and children who have been stricken by this continuing tragedy. Even though the project seems small and inadequate in the face of such vast needs, nonetheless it is a concrete effort to help the people there and to contribute in some degree to the future of the African continent, a future which ultimately rests in the hands of the African peoples themselves. I wish to take this opportunity to renew my solemn appeal on behalf of the people of the Sahel and of other critical regions where the drought is still continuing and there is a clear need for international assistance and solidarity in order to provide food, drink and shelter and to solve the conflicts which are hindering efforts to help. Thus I repeat what I said in Ouagadougou five years ago: “I cannot be silent when my brothers and sisters are threatened. I become here the voice of those who have no voice, the voice of the innocent, who died because they lacked water and bread; the voice of fathers and mothers who saw their children die without understanding, or who will always see in their children the after-effects of the hunger they have suffered; the voice of the generations to come, who must no longer live with this terrible threat weighing upon their lives. I launch an appeal to everyone! Let us not wait until the drought returns, terrible and devastating! Let us not wait for the sand to bring death again! Let us not allow the future of these peoples to remain jeopardized for ever”! (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Vehemens incitamentum ad homines aquarum penuria afflictos sublevandos, in urbe Uagaduguensi ante cathedrale templum elatum, 7, die 10 maii 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 1 (1980) 1295) The solidarity shown in the past has proved, by its extent and effectiveness, that it is possible to make a difference. Let our response now be even more generous and effective. Two kinds of assistance are needed: assistance which meets the immediate needs of food and shelter, and assistance which will make it possible for the people now suffering to resume responsibility for their own lives, to reclaim their land and to make it once more capable of providing a stable, healthy way of life. Such long-range programs make it possible for people to regain hope for the future and a feeling of dignity and self-worth. Ladies and Gentlemen, as I speak to you today, I am reminded of the words of Paul VI which have become so well known: “Development is the new name for peace” (Pauli VI Populorum Progressio, 87). Yes, indeed, integral development is a condition for peace, and environment programs for food and housing are concrete ways of promoting peace. All who serve the basic needs of their neighbors contribute building blocks to the great edifice of peace. Peace is built slowly through good will, trust and persevering effort. It is built by international agencies and by governmental and non-governmental organizations when they engage in common efforts to provide food and shelter for the needy, and when they work together to improve the environment. Peace is built by Heads of States and politicians when they rise above divisive ideologies and co-operate in joint efforts free of prejudice, discrimination, hatred and revenge. Peace is the fruit of reconciliation, and the peace of Africa depends also on the reconciliation of people in each individual country. It requires the solidarity of all Africans as brothers and sisters at the service of the whole African family and at the service of the integral development of all mankind. Peace is built up when national budgets are finally diverted from the creation of more powerful and deadlier weapons to provide food and raw materials to meet basic human needs. And peace is consolidated with each passing year as the use of nuclear weapons becomes a fading memory in the conscience of humanity. And today we thank God again that forty years have passed without the use of those weapons that devastated human life, together with its environment and shelter, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - forty years of hope and determination, forty years in a new era for humanity. Peace is built by the men and women of the mass media when they bring to the attention of the public the facts about those who suffer, about refugees and the dispossessed, when they stir up in others a determination and generosity to respond to all those in need. Yes, “development” and “a new heart” are new names for peace. And those who make peace and promote conditions for peace shall for ever be called children of God! Everyone remembers the stories of Saint Francis joyfully speaking with the animals, urging them to respect others and to praise the Creator. This example is particularly urgent for our times when, without the slightest concern, man is slowly destroying the environment that the Creator had prepared for him. Our Savior And how can we remain indifferent to the prospect of an ecological crisis which is making vast areas of our planet uninhabitable and hostile to humanity? Or by the problems of peace, so often threatened by the specter of catastrophic wars? Or by contempt for the fundamental human rights of so many people, especially children? Countless are the emergencies to which every Christian heart must be sensitive... We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you! + APOSTOLIC LETTER NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS CLERGY AND LAY FAITHFUL AT THE CLOSE OF THE GREAT JUBILEE OF THE YEAR 2000, January 6, 2001 Most Pressing Issues Facing Humanity Reflecting in the light of reason and in keeping with its rules, and guided always by the deeper understanding given them by the word of God, Christian philosophers can develop a reflection which will be both comprehensible and appealing to those who do not yet grasp the full truth which divine Revelation declares. Such a ground for understanding and dialogue is all the more vital nowadays, since the most pressing issues facing humanity—ecology, peace and the co-existence of different races and cultures, for instance—may possibly find a solution if there is a clear and honest collaboration between Christians and the followers of other religions and all those who, while not sharing a religious belief, have at heart the renewal of humanity. + ENCYCLICAL LETTER FIDES ET RATIO OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND REASON, 14 September 1998 An Environmental Ethic Who cannot but be deeply concerned by the prospect of the already existing and ever expanding danger from pollution and other side effects of the production and use of chemicals? Indeed your discussions reflecting the highest levels of scientific competence will be of great relevance to the growing public concern about the environment. In most industrialized countries attention is paid to the risks to human beings and to the environment through man-made chemicals. In some countries regulations are in place. But in the developing countries, where most chemical hazards have their origin in the import of chemical substances and technologies, a lack of expertise and of necessary infrastructures often renders efficient control difficult or impossible. Very few countries, in fact, have a specific legislation regulating the handling and use of toxic chemicals. Other problems in developing countries concern the introduction of highly polluting industries, not subject to the more rigorous control that is applied in developed countries. It is a serious abuse and an offense against human solidarity when industrial enterprises in the richer countries profit from the economic and legislative weakness of poorer countries, by locating production plants or accumulating waste which will have a degrading effect on the environment and on people's health. Man's spiritual nature and his transcendent vocation imply a fundamental solidarity between people, whereby we are all responsible for each other. Respect for the natural environment and the correct and modulated use of the resources of creation are a part of each individual's moral obligations. In this context the technical dimension of the theme of your discussions is inseparable from its moral aspects. It would be difficult to overstate the weight of the moral duty incumbent on developed countries in their efforts to solve their chemical pollution and health hazard problems. The human family is at a crossroads in its relationship to the natural environment. Not only is it necessary to increase efforts to educate in a keen awareness of solidarity and interdependence among the world's people, it is also necessary to insist on the interdependence of the various ecosystems and on the importance of the balance of these systems for human survival and well-being. Mere utilitarian considerations or an aesthetical approach to nature cannot be a sufficient basis for a genuine education in ecology. We must all learn to approach the environmental question with solid ethical convictions involving responsibility, self-control, justice and fraternal love. For believers, this outlook springs directly from their relationship to God the Creator of all that exists. For Christians respect for God's handwork is reinforced by their certain hope of the restoration of all things in Jesus Christ in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1.1-19). + To scientists concerned with chemical hazards, 1993 The Jubilee of the Agricultural World (Excerpts) November 11, 2000 I am pleased to be able to meet you on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Agricultural World, for this moment of celebration and reflection on the present state of this important sector of life and the economy, as well as on the ethical and social perspectives that concern it. The Jubilee of farmers coincides with the traditional "Thanksgiving Day" promoted in Italy by the praiseworthy Confederation of Farmers, to whom I extend my most cordial greetings. This "Day" makes a strong appeal to the perennial values cherished by the agricultural world, particularly to its marked religious sense. To give thanks is to glorify God who created the land and its produce, to God who saw that it was "good" (Gn 1: 12) and entrusted it to man for wise and industrious safekeeping. Dear men and women of the agricultural world, you are entrusted with the task of making the earth fruitful. A most important task, whose urgent need today is becoming ever more apparent. The area where you work is usually called the "primary sector" by economic science. On the world economic scene, your sector varies considerably, in comparison to others, according to continent and nation. But whatever the cost in economic terms, plain good sense is enough to highlight its real "primacy" with respect to vital human needs. When this sector is underappreciated or mistreated, the consequences for life, health and ecological balance are always serious and usually difficult to remedy, at least in the short term. The Church has always had special regard for this area of work, which has also been expressed in important magisterial documents. How could we forget, in this respect, Bl. John XXIII's Mater et Magistra? At the time he put his "finger on the wound", so to speak, denouncing the problems that were unfortunately making agriculture a "depressed sector" in those years, regarding both "labor productivity" and "the standard of living of farm populations" (cf. ibid., nn. 123-124). In the time between Mater et Magistra and our day, it certainly cannot be said that these problems have been solved. Rather it should be noted that there are others in addition, in the framework of new problems stemming from the globalization of the economy and the worsening of the "ecological question". The Church obviously has no "technical" solutions to offer. Her contribution is at the level of Gospel witness and is expressed in proposing the spiritual values that give meaning to life and guidance for practical decisions, including at the level of work and the economy. Without doubt, the most important value at stake when we look at the earth and at those who work is the principle that brings the earth back to her Creator: the earth belongs to God! It must therefore be treated according to his law. If, with regard to natural resources, especially under the pressure of industrialization, an irresponsible culture of "dominion" has been reinforced with devastating ecological consequences, this certainly does not correspond to God's plan. "Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air" (Gn 1: 28). These famous words of Genesis entrust the earth to man's use, not abuse. They do not make man the absolute arbiter of the earth's governance, but the Creator's "co-worker": a stupendous mission, but one which is also marked by precise boundaries that can never be transgressed with impunity. This is a principle to be remembered in agricultural production itself, whenever there is a question of its advance through the application of biotechnologies, which cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of immediate economic interests. They must be submitted beforehand to rigorous scientific and ethical examination, to prevent them from becoming disastrous for human health and the future of the earth. The fact that the earth belongs constitutively to God is also the basis of the principle, so dear to the Church's social teaching, of the universal destination of the earth's goods (cf. Centesimus annus, n. 6). What God has given man, he has given with the heart of a father who cares for his children, no one excluded. God's earth is therefore also man's earth and that of all mankind! This certainly does not imply the illegitimacy of the right to property, but demands a conception of it and its consequent regulation which will safeguard and further its intrinsic "social function" (cf. Mater et Magistra, n. 111; Populorum progressio, n. 23). Every person, every people, has the right to live off the fruits of the earth. At the beginning of the new millennium, it is an intolerable scandal that so many people are still reduced to hunger and live in conditions unworthy of man. We can no longer limit ourselves to academic reflections: we must rid humanity of this disgrace through appropriate political and economic decisions with a global scope. As I wrote in my Message to the Director-General of the FAO on the occasion of World Food Day, it is necessary "to uproot the causes of hunger and malnutrition" (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 November 2000, p. 3). As is widely known, this situation has a variety of causes. Among the most absurd are the frequent conflicts within States, which are often true wars of the poor. And there remains the burdensome legacy of an often unjust distribution of wealth in individual nations and at the world level. This is an aspect which the celebration of the Jubilee brings precisely to our special attention. For the original institution of the Jubilee, as it is formulated in the Bible, was aimed at re-establishing equality among the children of Israel also by restoring property, so that the poorest people could pick themselves up again and everyone could experience, including at the level of a dignified life, the joy of belonging to the one people of God. Our Jubilee, 2,000 years after Christ's birth, must also bear this sign of universal brotherhood. It represents a message that is addressed not only to believers, but to all people of good will, so that they will be resolved, in their economic decisions, to abandon the logic of sheer advantage and combine legitimate "profit" with the value and practice of solidarity. As I have said on other occasions, we need a globalization of solidarity, which in turn presupposes a "culture of solidarity" that must flourish in every heart. Thus, while we never cease to urge the public authorities, the great economic powers and the most influential institutions to move in this direction, we must be convinced that there is a "conversion" that involves us all personally. We must start with ourselves. For this reason, in the Encyclical Centesimus annus, along with the discussions of the ecological question, I pointed to the urgent need for a "human ecology". This concept is meant to recall that "not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed" (Centesimus annus, n. 38). If man loses his sense of life and the security of moral standards, wandering aimlessly in the fog of indifferentism, no policy will be effective for safeguarding both the concerns of nature and those of society. Indeed, it is man who can build or destroy, respect or despise, share or reject. The great problems posed by the agricultural sector, in which you are directly involved, should be faced not only as "technical" or "political" problems, but at their root as "moral problems". It is therefore the inescapable responsibility of those who work with the name of Christians to give a credible witness in this area. Unfortunately, in the countries of the so-called "developed" world an irrational consumerism is spreading, a sort of "culture of waste", which is becoming a widespread lifestyle. This tendency must be opposed. To teach a use of goods which never forgets either the limits of available resources or the poverty of so many human beings, and which consequently tempers one's lifestyle with the duty of fraternal sharing, is a true pedagogical challenge and a very far-sighted decision. In this task, the world of those who work the land with its tradition of moderation and heritage of wisdom accumulated amid much suffering, can make an incomparable contribution. I am therefore very grateful for this "Jubilee" witness, which holds up the great values of the agricultural world to the attention of the whole Christian community and all society. Follow in the footsteps of your best tradition, opening yourselves to all the developments of the technological era, but jealously safeguarding the perennial values that characterize you. This is also the way to give a hope-filled future to the world of agriculture. A hope that is based on God's work, of which the Psalmist sings: "You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it (Ps 65: 10). As I implore this visit from God, source of prosperity and peace for the countless families who work in the rural world, I would like to impart an Apostolic Blessing to everyone at the end of this meeting. An Ethical and Ecological Question We face a fundamental question which can be described as both ethical and ecological. How can accelerated development be prevented from turning against man? How can one prevent disasters that destroy the environment and threaten all forms of life, and how can the negative consequences that have already occurred be remedied? + “International Solidarity Needed to Safeguard Environment," address to the European Bureau for the Environment, L'Osservatore Romano, June 1996 © Copyright 1978 Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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