Vatican activities for safeguarding Creation

Tebaldo Vinciguerra present us a resume on main activities of Vatican to safeguarding Creation, like part of his participation in the  Conference of Creation in the frame of the WYD 2013 held in Rio de Janeiro last July.

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Since we, Catholics believe our Creator has mandated the whole human race to be stewards of creation, the Church has always promoted the respect for the environment. Guided by the wisdom of God-Creator, the Church has always promoted the respect for the Earth, entrusted to humans.. In order to carry out this mission, Vatican develops different actions, described below.

 1) Diplomatic Activities of the Holy See

The Holy See (HS) is present in the life of several International Organizations (IO), mainly through its accredited diplomats. The official status of the HS in each IO is different: it officiates as guest, permanent guest, observer, member, founding member. The influence and the activities of the HS, consequently, also vary considerably in each context, according to its status but also to personnel relations or habits.

 The HS is very close to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and it is important to mention that under Pope Benedict XVI, the main contribution of HS was to encourage the International Community to address the global challenge of food (in) security, recommending not to focus only on technical or short-term problems. Indeed, famine is not entirely due to geographical and climatic situations, to conflicts or to harvest scarcity. It is also caused by human selfishness. A true world development, organized and integral, must be promoted and reached. It requires an objective knowledge of human situations, the identification of the real causes of poverty and effective responses, while respecting biodiversity and the whole Creation. In fact, the human being must not rashly compromise the natural balance, a result of the order of creation, but on the contrary must take care to pass on to future generations an earth able to feed them.

 Another important subject of the HS is the use of natural resources, its sustainability and its priorities: The order of creation demands that priority be given to those human activities that do not cause irreversible damage to nature, but which instead are woven into the social, cultural and religious fabric of the different communities. In this way, a sober balance is achieved between consumption and the sustainability of resources.

 The HS has participated in many international environmental meetings with a message of peace and environmental protection to get the common welfare. In this sense, the Holy See stresses the importance of moving from a merely technological model of development to an integral human model, which takes as its point of departure the dignity and worth of each and every person. Each individual member of society is called to adopt a vocational attitude which freely assumes responsibility, in genuine solidarity with one another and all of creation.

 These examples are sufficient in order to provide an overview of the activities undertaken by the HS in recent years through its diplomatic network. I summarize the main points: governance, solidarity, right-based approach, common good and political will.

 2) Other activities of the Holy See

For a more complete overview, we must have a look also to those activities not exactly belonging to the diplomatic area.

 Creation, understood as an ecosystem that can be analyzed, has been studied several times by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS). The PAS organizes in-depth thematic seminars, which usually lead to publications on issues like: water (2005), glaciers (2011), transgenic plants (2010) climate change and biodiversity (2010). The publications usually include the minutes of each seminar, which is quite interesting as they represent the contributions of scientist from different disciplines and different nations.

 The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences works in a similar way, but its publications only marginally concern the environment or ecology; for example in its studies on globalization.

 We should not forget that that Creation includes us… humans too! In this regard, the activities of the Pontifical Academy of Life ,need to be mentioned. It studies issues like: embryos (2006), right to life (2007), genetics or eugenics (2009). Recently, Pope Francis, strongly insisted on those issues: He stipulated “cultivating and guarding” doesn’t include only the relationship between humans and the environment, but they also concern human relationships.” «The Popes have spoken of human ecology as closely linked to environmental ecology. We are experiencing a moment of crisis; we see it in the environment, but mostly we see it in man. The human being is at stake: here is the urgency of human ecology.

 3) Activities of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

The contribution of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) to the safeguard of the environment is multiform. There is a constant activity, demanding but enriching, of monitoring the main environmental issues. In the last years, for instance, the PCJP worked on water, energy, land management and food security. In a near future we will almost certainly work also on issues concerning extractive industries and mining corporations.

 4) The legacy of Benedict XVI

I would like to underscore three issues for reflection and action from the Magisterium of Benedict XVI.

Energy, a question deeply connected to justice and peace. Serious questions are waiting for effective responses and solutions. For instance: how can we use energy in solidarity and in a more durable way?

 International cooperation concerning Creation. International cooperation, finance, environmental issues and development ones are deeply woven. How and with which criteria can we manage investments, discourage harmful subsidies, and oppose hoarding of resources? Answer those challenges becomes rapidly a vital factor, if we speak about food, water, land, seeds. How can we foster development in each country, without maintaining dependency and underdevelopment? This requires radical and systemic changes. This include adopting an ethics and having institutions and economic structures more just both at national and international level. This requires governance.

 Human ecology. Remember that safeguard of the Creation, clearly, includes the human person, and I mean every human person.

Energy, internal cooperation and human ecology… These are the three points I would like us to reflect upon. Remember that: we cannot dispense ourselves from the Gospel and of Catholic values when we are dealing with the environment or, better, with the Creation. 

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