1 September National Day of the Custody of Creation, the message of Pope Francis

“The sister mother earth who cries. At the mercy of our consumer excesses, it groans and begs us to stop our abuses and its destruction “

ROME – The day for the custody of creation is an initiative wanted by the Italian Episcopal Conference in harmony with the other European churches which consists of an annual day dedicated to reaffirming the importance of environmentalism with all its ethnic and social implications. The official anniversary is September 1, but the initiative is left to the individual dioceses to develop local activities throughout the month. The 17th National Day for the Custody of Creation, which will be celebrated on September 1st, is centered on the theme “He took bread, gave thanks (Lk 22:19).

The Pope’s message for the Day of the Custody of Creation 2022

Dear brothers and sisters!

“Listen to the voice of creation” is the theme and the invitation of the Time of Creation this year. The ecumenical period begins on 1 September with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and ends on 4 October with the feast of St. Francis. It is a special time for all Christians to pray and care for our common home together. Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this time is an opportunity to cultivate our “ecological conversion”, a conversion encouraged by St. John Paul II as a response to the “ecological catastrophe” heralded by St. Paul VI as early as 1970 [1].

If we learn to listen to it, we notice a kind of dissonance in the voice of creation. On the one hand, it is a sweet song that praises our beloved Creator; on the other, it is a bitter cry that complains of our human mistreatment.

The sweet song of creation invites us to practice an “ecological spirituality” (Encyclical Letter Laudato si ‘, 216), attentive to the presence of God in the natural world. It is an invitation to base our spirituality on the “loving awareness of not being separated from other creatures, but of forming a stupendous universal communion with the other beings of the universe” (ibid., 220). For Christ’s disciples, in particular, this luminous experience strengthens the awareness that “everything was made through him and without him nothing was made of what exists” (Jn 1: 3). In this Time of Creation, let us resume praying in the great cathedral of creation, enjoying the “grandiose cosmic choir” [2] of countless creatures who sing praises to God. Let us join with St. Francis of Assisi in singing: “Be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures” (cf. Canticle of Brother Sun). Let us join the Psalmist in singing: “Every living thing give praise to the Lord!” (Ps 150.6).

Unfortunately, that sweet song is accompanied by a bitter cry. Or rather, from a chorus of bitter cries. First, it is the mother earth sister who cries out. At the mercy of our consumer excesses, it groans and begs us to stop our abuses and its destruction. Then, it’s the different creatures who scream. At the mercy of a “despotic anthropocentrism” (Laudato si ‘, 68), at the antipodes of the centrality of Christ in the work of creation, innumerable species are dying out, forever ceasing their hymns of praise to God. But they are also the most poor among us to shout. Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor suffer most severely from the impact of droughts, floods, hurricanes and heat waves which continue to become more intense and frequent. Again, our brothers and sisters of native peoples cry out. Due to predatory economic interests, their ancestral territories are invaded and devastated from all sides, launching “a cry that rises to heaven” (Apostolic Exhortation postsin. Querida Amazonia, 9). Finally, our children cry out. Threatened by myopic selfishness, adolescents are anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent or at least limit the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.

By hearing these bitter cries, we must repent and change harmful lifestyles and systems. From the very beginning, the Gospel appeal “Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” (Mt 3: 2), inviting to a new relationship with God, also implies a different relationship with others and with creation. The degraded state of our common home deserves the same attention as other global challenges such as severe health crises and war conflicts. “Living the vocation of being custodians of God’s work is an essential part of a virtuous existence, it does not constitute something optional and not even a secondary aspect of the Christian experience” (Laudato si ‘, 217).

As people of faith, we feel further responsible to act, in daily behavior, in consonance with this need for conversion. But it is not only individual: “The ecological conversion that is required to create a dynamism of lasting change is also a community conversion” (ibid., 219). In this perspective, the community of nations is also called to commit itself, especially in the meetings of the United Nations dedicated to the environmental question, with a spirit of maximum cooperation.

The COP27 climate summit, to be held in Egypt in November 2022, represents the next opportunity to foster effective implementation of the Paris Agreement all together. It is also for this reason that I recently ordered that the Holy See, in the name and on behalf of the Vatican City State, adhere to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, with the hope that the humanity of the 21st century “may be remembered for having generously assumed its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 165). Achieving the Paris target of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C is quite challenging and requires responsible collaboration among all nations to present more ambitious climate plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions, to reduce to zero net greenhouse gas emissions as urgently as possible. It is a question of “converting” consumption and production models, as well as lifestyles, in a direction that is more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all present and future peoples, a development based on responsibility, prudence / precaution, on solidarity and attention to the poor and future generations. At the basis of everything must be the covenant between the human being and the environment which, for us believers, is a mirror of the “creative love of God, from which we come and towards which we are on our way” [3]. The transition brought about by this conversion cannot overlook the demands of justice, especially for the workers most affected by the impact of climate change.

In turn, the COP15 Biodiversity Summit, which will be held in Canada in December, will offer the goodwill of governments the important opportunity to adopt a new multilateral agreement to stop the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species. According to the ancient wisdom of the Jubilees, we need to “remember, return, rest and restore” [4]. To stop the further collapse of the “web of life” – biodiversity – that God has given us, we pray and invite nations to agree on four key principles: 1. Build a clear ethical basis for the transformation we need in order to to save biodiversity; 2. fight against the loss of biodiversity, support its conservation and recovery and meet people’s needs in a sustainable way; 3. promote global solidarity, in the light of the fact that biodiversity is a global common good that requires a shared commitment; 4. focus on people in vulnerable situations, including those most affected by the loss of biodiversity, such as indigenous peoples, the elderly and young people.

I repeat: “I want to ask, in the name of God, the big extractive companies – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agri-food – to stop destroying woods, wetlands and mountains, stop polluting rivers and seas , to stop poisoning people and food ” [5].

One cannot fail to recognize the existence of an “ecological debt” (Laudato si ‘, 51) of the economically richer nations, which have polluted the most in the last two centuries; it requires them to take more ambitious steps at both COP27 and COP15. This involves, in addition to determined action within their borders, keeping their promises of financial and technical support for economically poorer nations, which are already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. In addition, further financial support for biodiversity conservation should also be urgently considered. Even the economically less rich countries have significant but “diversified” responsibilities (cf. ibid., 52); the delays of others can never justify one’s inaction. We must all act decisively. We are reaching “a breaking point” (cf. ibid., 61).

During this Time of Creation, let us pray that the COP27 and COP15 summits may unite the human family (cf.ibid., 13) to decisively face the double crisis of the climate and the reduction of biodiversity. Recalling St. Paul’s exhortation to rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry (cf. Rom 12:15), let us cry with the bitter cry of creation, listen to it and respond with facts, so that we and future generations can still rejoice with the sweet song of life and hope of creatures ”.

1 September National Day of the Custody of Creation, the message of Pope Francis