In his apostolic visit to Peru, Pope Francis has praised the Peruvians’ “respect and gratitude for mother earth,” while warning of an ominous threats to Peru’s “entire ecosytem.”
Speaking to state authorities at the government palace Friday, the pope spoke of many reasons for hope, from the dynamism of the young to Peru’s environmental awareness and cultural diversity.
“Peru is a land of hope that invites and challenges its people to unity,” he said. “This people has the duty to maintain unity, among other things, precisely to defend all these reasons for hope.”
“Yet over this hope a shadow is growing, a threat looms,” Francis intoned.
“This is evident in the way that we are stripping the earth of its natural resources, without which no forms of life are possible,” he said. “The loss of jungles and forests means not only the loss of species, which could also be extremely important resources for the future, but also the loss of vital relationships that could end up altering the entire ecosystem.”
The pontiff underscored the greatness of Amazonia, “the largest tropical forest and the most extensive river system on the planet.”
“This ‘lung,’ as it has been called, is one of the world’s regions of great biodiversity, as it is home to a vast variety of species,” he said.
Peru’s Constitution states that natural resources are “patrimony of the Nation” and calls on the State to promote “the sustainable use of its natural resources.”
“The State is obliged to promote the conservation of biological diversity, and protected natural areas,” it reads.
The hope for the country, Francis said Friday, will be found in “promoting and developing an integral ecology” that resists outdated models of development that produce “environmental decline.”
“The degradation of the environment, sad to say, cannot be separated from the moral degradation of our communities. We cannot think of these as two separate realities,” he said.
Francis denounced “black market mining” that destroys forests and rivers, “with all the richness they possess.” This process of degradation “brings with it and encourages organizations operating outside of legal structures; these debase so many of our brothers and sisters by subjecting them to human trafficking (a new form of slavery), irregular employment and crime,” he said, and to “other evils that gravely affect their dignity and, at the same time, the dignity of the nation.”
Care for the physical environment is related to care for human ecology, Francis said, insisting that the two cannot be separated.
We must remain “very attentive to that other, often subtle form of environmental degradation that increasingly contaminates the whole system of life: corruption,” the pope said. “How much evil is done to our Latin American people and the democracies of this continent by this social ‘virus,’ a phenomenon that infects everything, with the greatest harm being done to the poor and mother earth.”
Pope Francis has made the environment one of the leitmotivs of his pontificate, and was the first pope in history to devote an entire encyclical letter to the topic of the care of creation.
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