Pope Francis on Earth Day: We Have ‘Polluted and Despoiled’ the Planet

Pope Francis celebrates from the balcony of St Peter's basilica during the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas message to the city and the world, on December 25, 2019 at St Peter's square in Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis issued a severe indictment Wednesday of humanity’s failure to care for the planet, as environmentalists commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Earth Day.”

“Because of our selfishness we have failed in our responsibility to be guardians and stewards of the earth,” the pope said in his video-streamed General Audience. “We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair.”

“We have polluted and despoiled it, endangering our very lives,” the pontiff continued. “For this reason, various international and local movements have sprung up in order to appeal to our consciences.”

“I deeply appreciate these initiatives; still it will be necessary for our children to take to the streets to teach us the obvious: we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us,” he said in a message evocative of his past praise for climate warrior Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement.

“We have failed to care for the earth, our garden-home; we have failed to care for our brothers and sisters,” Francis said in his audience Wednesday. “We have sinned against the earth, against our neighbours, and ultimately against the Creator, the benevolent Father who provides for everyone, and desires us to live in communion and flourish together.”

The pope also said that the fiftieth Earth Day provides “an occasion for renewing our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family.”

“As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst,” he said.

Human beings are fashioned from the earth and the fruit of the earth sustains our life, and yet “we are not simply ‘earthly’; we also bear within us the breath of life that comes from God,” he said.

“Thus, we live in this common home as one human family in biodiversity with God’s other creatures,” he added.

“In today’s celebration of Earth Day, we are called to renew our sense of sacred respect for the earth, for it is not just our home but also God’s home,” Francis said. “This should make us all the more aware that we stand on holy ground!”

As he has done on other occasions, the pope called on his listeners to undergo “an ecological conversion that can find expression in concrete actions” because “we cannot heal the earth unless we love and respect it.”

The pope also touted two upcoming environmental Conferences: COP15 on Biodiversity in Kunming, China, and COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland, calling on people to “come together to create a popular movement ‘from below.’”

“In this Easter season of renewal, let us pledge to love and esteem the beautiful gift of the earth, our common home, and to care for all members of our human family,” he concluded.

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