Pope Francis calls on all faiths to ‘show mercy to the earth’

Pontiff urges Catholics to add care for the environment to seven works of mercy in document released on “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”

Pope Francis, who has stressed environmental concerns at the heart of his papacy,  has urged all faiths to preserve the environment and “show mercy” to the planet.

“Christians or not, as people of faith and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion,” the Pontiff said in a document released on “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”.

“God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of ‘debris, desolation and filth’. We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right,” he said adding that our actions would ultimately have an effect on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

The pontiff went on to point out that global warming continues, due in part to human activity, with 2015 being the warmest year on record, and 2016 likely being warmer still.

“This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact.”

He stressed that human beings are deeply connected with all of creation, making the good treatment and safeguarding of the environment an essential step.

Francis said that economics, politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains, and he went on to suggest that more ambitious plans ought to be set into action.

He went on to encourage the faithful to translate these intentions into concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation by avoiding things like the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.

“We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread and encourage a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption.”

Referring to more wide ranging examples, the pontiff added that one concrete case of doing so is addressing the “ecological debt” between the global north and south.

“Repaying it would require treating the environments of poorer nations with care and providing the financial resources and technical assistance needed to help them deal with climate change and promote sustainable development.”

Praising the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change (which set the demanding goal of halting the rise of the global temperature,) Francis added that governments are now obliged to honour the commitments they made, while businesses must also responsibly do their part.

“It is up to citizens to insist that this happen, and indeed to advocate for even more ambitious goals.”

He asked the world’s one billion Roman Catholics to embrace a green agenda, saying defence of the environment should be added to the works of mercy that provide believers with guiding principles and duties they are meant to follow. The works include taking care of the hungry and sick and teaching the ignorant. Six were spelled out in the New Testament; the seventh – burying the dead – was added in the Middle Ages.

“So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home.”

“As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world which allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.”

The pope went on to propose simple daily gestures to encourage works of mercy and care for our common home.