Vatican Launches Guide for ‘Caring, Sharing’ Ecological Living

Pope Francis listens to the speech of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they attend a meeting with the diplomatic community at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. - Pope Francis called on November 25 for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan's 2011 "triple disaster" …
BEHROUZ MEHRI/POOL/AFP

ROME — Several Vatican departments have jointly published a manual on care for the environment as part of Pope Francis’ ongoing campaign for “ecological conversion.”

The 225-page text, titled “Journeying for the Care of the Common Home,” aims to be a guide to all Christians on how to maintain “a healthy relationship with Creation,” Vatican News reported.

The Vatican released the document on Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato sí, the first ever devoted to the theme of the environment.

In 2015, the Vatican created the “Holy See Interdicastery Table on Integral Ecology,” a joint commission to evaluate ways to best promote and implement integral ecology. It was this commission that produced the draft of the new text.

The document begins by calling all Christians to an “ecological conversion,” understood as a change in mentality toward greater care for life and creation, dialogue with others, and “an awareness of the deep connection between the world’s problems,” Vatican News said.

While cautioning against an “exaggerated” anthropocentrism, the text reaffirms the centrality of life, the family, and the human person, noting that “nature cannot be defended without the defense of every human life.”

The document underscores the pope’s conviction that “the commitment to caring for our common home is an integral part of Christian life” rather than an option of secondary importance.

Condemning “food waste” as an act of injustice toward the poor, the new manual also urges a shift to “diversified and sustainable” agriculture and appeals for the defense of small producers and natural resources, and the protection of biodiversity.

In order to combat climate change, the Vatican text calls for the de-carbonization of the energy industry, along with greater investment in “clean and renewable” energy. It also reiterates Pope Francis’ appeal for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and the taxation of CO2 emissions.

A year ago, Pope Francis warned of disastrous consequences if humanity does not immediately react to the threat of climate change, insisting that the world has reached a “critical moment” and there is no time to waste.

“Dear friends, time is running out!” the pope told a group of participants in a Vatican-sponsored conference on energy transition last June. “We cannot afford the luxury of waiting for others to come forward or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits. The climate crisis requires decisive action from us, here and now.”

This conference “takes place at a critical moment,” Francis said. “Today’s ecological crisis, especially climate change, threatens the very future of the human family, and this is not an exaggeration. For too long we have collectively ignored the fruits of scientific analysis, and catastrophic predictions can no longer be viewed with contempt and irony.”

The pope went on to urge specific political action, most notably regarding penalties for carbon usage.

“A carbon pricing policy is essential if humanity wants to use the resources of creation wisely,” he said. “The failure to manage carbon emissions has produced a huge debt that will now have to be repaid with interest from those who come after us.”

The cost of carbon usage must be paid here and now by those who use it, and not deferred for future generations to cover, he proposed.

“Our use of common environmental resources can be considered ethical only when the social and economic costs of their use are recognized in a transparent manner and are fully sustained by those who use them, rather than by other populations or future generations,” he said.

Thursday’s text also underscores the issue of climate change, saying it has “a profound environmental, ethical, economic, political, and social ‘relevance’” that requires “a new model of development.”

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