Pope Francis: Abusing Ecosystems Is a ‘Grave Sin’

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AP/Francois Mori

ROME — Pope Francis urged Christians to care for creation Wednesday, insisting that the abuse of ecosystems is a “grave sin” while lamenting the negative effects of global warming.

We must extend care to our common home, “to the earth and to every creature,” the pope told pilgrims gather in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard for his weekly general audience. “All forms of life are interconnected, and our health depends on that of the ecosystems that God created and entrusted to us to care for.”

“Abusing them, on the other hand, is a grave sin that damages us, and harms us, and makes us sick,” he added.

In his address, the pope suggested that an exaggerated anthropocentrism that sees the human person as superior to the rest of creation contributes to an arrogance that leads to this abuse.

He said that “it is easy to fall prey to an unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism, the ‘I’ at the centre of everything, which gives excessive importance to our role as human beings, positioning us as absolute rulers of all other creatures.”

“A distorted interpretation of biblical texts on creation has contributed to this misinterpretation, which leads to the exploitation of the earth to the point of suffocating it,” he continued.

The prime biblical text Francis was referring to is the creation account offered in the book of Genesis, where human beings are portrayed as made in God’s image and likeness, with dominion over the earth.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

“Exploiting creation: this is the sin,” the pope continued in his address Wednesday. “We believe that we are at the centre, claiming to occupy God’s place and so we ruin the harmony of creation, the harmony of God’s plan.”

“We become predators, forgetting our vocation as custodians of life,” he said. “Of course, we can and must work the earth so as to live and to develop. But work is not synonymous with exploitation, and it is always accompanied by care: ploughing and protecting, working and caring… This is our mission.”

“Our poorest brothers and sisters and our mother earth lament for the damage and injustice we have caused, and demand we take another course,” he said. “It demands of us a conversion, a change of path; taking care of the earth too, of creation.”

As an example of man’s exploitation of the earth and its consequences, the pope brought forth an anecdote concerning the demise of the glaciers.

“Today I was reading in the newspaper about those two great glaciers in Antarctica, near the Amundsen Sea: they are about to fall,” he said. “It will be terrible, because the sea level will rise and this will bring many, many difficulties and cause so much harm.”

“And why? Because of global warming, not caring for the environment, not caring for the common home,” he said.


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