Summer, Environment and the Pope


This summer Pope Benedict XVI has made references to the environment on many occasions. Following his series on prayer, in mid august a specific teaching was dedicated to the importance of finding a conducive environment in creation which opens the soul to prayer through beauty and silence. That same week he commented on a passage of the Gospel, and the need for solitude but also commitment:

In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer — such as monks and nuns — have established their communities in places of particular beauty: in the countryside, upon the hills, in mountain valleys, by the lakeside or on the seashore, or even on little islands. These places unite two very important elements for the contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which points to that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by their remoteness from cities and the great means of communication.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, “and go before him to the other side” (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again.

At World Youth Day in Madrid there wasn’t much content delivered by Pope Benedict XVI directly related to the environment, at least not in comparison with the extensive references made in Sydney in 2008. But there certainly was some environment mentioned. In the initial address upon arriving in Madrid the Pope mentioned the challenges posed to the dignity of the human person and the environment:

Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected.

Also, on the interview in flight to Madrid the Pope mentioned the environment and the need to balance its care with economic needs:

We know that we must protect our planet, but we must protect the functioning of the service of economic work for all and think that tomorrow is also today.

And of course there was the “direct intervention” of the environment during the Vigil on Saturday night, where rain and hail, lightning and strong winds almost as if tried to disrupt the event. On two occasions the Pope was asked if he should leave, and insisted to remain with the million strong youth. At the end he improvised with these words:

We have lived together an adventure.  Strengthened by your faith in Christ, you have resisted the rain.  Before leaving I wish you all good night.  Have a good rest.  I thank you for the sacrifice that you are making and I have no doubt that you will offer it generously to the Lord.  We shall see one another tomorrow, God willing, in the celebration of the Eucharist.  I am expecting all of you.  I thank you for the fine example that you have given.  As happened tonight, you can always, with Christ, endure the trials of life.  Do not forget this.  I thank you all.

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