VATICAN CITY (CNS): The degradation of the environment is a pressing moral problem that threatens peace and human life itself, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one part of the planet affects us all,” the Pope said in his message for World Peace Day, January 1, 2010.
Pope Benedict’s message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican on December 15.
Government policies, the activity of multi-national corporations and the day-to-day behaviour of individuals all have an impact on the environment, the Pope said.
While the future of the world hangs in the balance because of what people are doing today, the negative effects of pollution and environmental exploitation already can be seen, he said.
“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions?” the Pope asked.
Already, he said, the world was seeing the “growing phenomenon of ‘environmental refugees’, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat” to migrate in search of food, water and unpolluted air.
“It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view,” the Pope said.
In addition, he warned of the “actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources”.
“Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all.
It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all,” the Pope wrote.
Specifically, the Pope said a solution would require “a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed.”
Christians believe the entire cosmos was created by God, who drew harmony out of chaos, the Pope said. Human sin – Adam and Eve’s desire to take the place of God and their refusal to recognise that they, too, were his creatures – disrupted that harmony.
When the Bible said that God made man and woman in his image and gave them dominion over the earth, the Pope said, it meant God called them to be stewards of creation, drawing from the earth what they needed and safeguarding its riches for future generations.
Pope Benedict said that because the environmental crisis was global, it must be met with a universal sense of responsibility and solidarity toward people living in other parts of the world as well as toward generations who have not yet been born.
The Pope ended his message with a plea to “all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful creator and the father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.”