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Monday, January 13, 2014

Pope Francis to diplomats: build peace by protecting life, nature

Photo: Flicker/Catholic Church (England and Wales)
At today’s gathering with the Vatican diplomatic corps for the annual “State of the World” address, Pope Francis continued to confound pundits who seek to box him in this or that worldly ideological box.

As with his predecessors, Francis sounded the alarm on a wide range of present-day ills—including a growing culture of disposability “which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society,” as Benedict XVI put it when speaking of the link between the human person and the environment.

Francis put it this way:  
Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed “the throwaway culture”. Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.
By now you may have noted in Francis a theme of connecting the environmental concept of disposability with abortion. This is a brilliant (and quite accurate) way of bridging issues and ideologies. In doing so he is really just making the same point that Benedict XVI was making in Caritas in Veritate, which is quoted at the masthead of this blog.

Also like Benedict XVI—who devoted an entire Message for World Day of Peace on the environment—Francis connects the need for sustainable environmental ethics with the quest for peace. 
Finally, I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if “nature is at our disposition”, all too often we do not “respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations”. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home. I recall a popular saying: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives!”. We have also witnessed the devastating effects of several recent natural disasters. In particular, I would mention once more the numerous victims and the great devastation caused in the Philippines and other countries of Southeast Asia as a result of typhoon Haiyan.
I am sure some may be uncomfortable with a pope popularizing a pantheistic view of nature. But Benedict XVI had also anthropomorphized nature when he spoke of nature having a “language,” that is, an inner logic that we can know and that we should follow.

Benedict XVI the professor may have used exacting language to express this truth while Pope Francis uses the language of the common person. No matter what style of communication you prefer, there is no denying the message that the faithful and the world are being taught: Like it or not, the laws of nature are real, unyielding, and they are necessary to follow if we truly seek peace and plenty on planet earth.


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