On Monday morning, Pope Francis dropped another clue about the content of his upcoming “encyclical” letter on the environment and human ecology, saying that a Christian who does not take care of creation, shows disdain for the work of God.
In his homily at Mass in the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives in Vatican City, Pope Francis reflected on the book of Genesis and the account of God’s creation of the world “in the beginning.”
He said Christians should not leave care for the environment to “the Greens,” but should own it themselves.
“When we hear that people get together to discuss how to preserve creation, we might say: ‘No, they are the Greens!’” the Pope said, but this would be incorrect. “No, they are not the Greens! This is Christian!” he said.
“God works, and He keeps on working,” Francis stated, “and we could ask ourselves how we are supposed to respond to God’s creation, which is born of love, since He is love.”
We should respond to God’s creation by accepting the mission He has given us, he said. “The earth is yours. Take care of it. Subdue it and make it grow,” he said. “Our responsibility is to make the earth prosper, make creation prosper, to keep it and make it grow according to His laws.”
“We are lords of creation, but not its masters,” he said.
The Pope said we should be careful not to feel like masters of creation, but “to make it prosper.” He added, “This is the first response man is called to give to God’s work: to labor to protect creation.”
“This is our responsibility,” he said. “A Christian who doesn’t protect creation and who doesn’t help it develop is a Christian who doesn’t care about God’s work, the work that was born of God’s love for us.”
God creates the universe, but creation doesn’t stop, Francis said. “He continually sustains what He has created.”
In one of his earliest addresses, the Pope said he had chosen his name after St. Francis of Assisi who “teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.”
Francis’ environmentalism is unapologetically anthropocentric. He has also been an outspoken defender of “human ecology,” urging that the human person be placed back at the center of culture and ethics. He has denounced a “culture of waste,” whereby “human life and the person are no longer seen as a primary value to be respected and safeguarded, especially if they are poor or disabled, if they are not yet useful — like the unborn child — or are no longer of any use — like the elderly person.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.