ROME — Pope Francis employed some of his strongest environmental rhetoric to date Friday, insisting the planet earth is “sick,” “wounded,” and “bleeding.”
Writing to the president of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the pope said that “protection of the environment and respect for the biodiversity of the planet are issues that affect us all.”
“We cannot pretend to be healthy in a world that is sick,” Francis said. “The wounds inflicted on our mother earth are wounds that also bleed in us.”
“Caring for ecosystems demands a look to the future, one that is not concerned only with the immediate moment or that seeks a quick and easy profit, but rather one that is concerned for life and that seeks its preservation for the benefit of all,” he added.
The official celebrations of World Environment Day would have taken place this year in Bogotá, Colombia, but because of ongoing lockdowns because of the coronavirus will be held virtually, he noted.
“Our attitude toward the present state of our planet should indeed make us concerned for and witnesses to the gravity of the situation,” the pontiff stated in his letter. “We cannot remain silent before the outcry when we realize the very high costs of the destruction and exploitation of the ecosystem.”
“This is not a time to continue looking the other way, indifferent to the signs that our planet is being plundered and violated by greed for profit, very often in the name of progress,” he insisted. “We have the chance to reverse course, to commit ourselves to a better, healthier world and to pass it on to future generations.”
“Everything depends on us, if we really want it,” he said.
In his message, the pope also referenced the fifth anniversary of his encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Sì, “which drew attention to the cry that mother earth lifts up to us.”
“I would also invite all of you to participate in the special Year that I have announced to reflect in light of that document and, together, to become more committed to the care and protection of our common home, and of our most vulnerable and marginalized brothers and sisters in society,” he said.
In April, the pope issued an indictment of humanity’s failure to care for the planet in commemoration of 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 a 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.”
“We have failed to care for the earth, our garden-home; we have failed to care for our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “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.
“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!”
The pontiff also declared that the Wuhan coronavirus is “nature’s response” to humanity’s failure to address the “catastrophes” wrought by human-induced climate change.
Asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for an “ecological conversion,” the pope insisted that humanity has provoked nature by not responding adequately to the climate crisis.
“We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that a year and a half ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods?” he asked.
“I don’t know if it is nature’s revenge, but it is certainly nature’s response,” he added.