Saint Peter's Square
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today I would like to reflect on the issue of the environment, as I have
already had an opportunity to do on various occasions. I was also prompted to
think about this because of today’s World Environment Day, sponsored by the
United Nations, which is launching a pressing appeal for the need to eliminate
waste and the destruction of food.
When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts go to the
first pages of the Bible, to the Book of Genesis, where it says that God puts
men and women on the earth to till it and keep it (cf. 2:15). And these
questions occur to me: What does cultivating and preserving the earth mean? Are
we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and
neglecting it? The verb “cultivate” reminds me of the care a farmer takes to
ensure that his land will be productive and that his produce will be shared.
What great attention, enthusiasm and dedication! Cultivating and caring for
creation is an instruction of God which he gave not only at the beginning of
history, but has also given to each one of us; it is part of his plan; it means
making the world increase with responsibility, transforming it so that it may be
a garden, an inhabitable place for us all. Moreover on various occasions
has recalled that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to
grasp the pace and the logic of creation. Instead we are often guided by the
pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating and exploiting; we do not
“preserve” the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a
freely-given gift to look after.
We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to
creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret in it what
calls “the rhythm of the love-story between God and man”. Why does this happen?
Why do we think and live horizontally, we have drifted away from God, we no
longer read his signs.
However “cultivating and caring” do not only entail the relationship between
us and the environment, between man and creation. They also concern human
relations. The popes have spoken of a human ecology, closely connected
with environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis; we see it
in the environment, but above all we see it in men and women. The human person
is in danger: this much is certain — the human person is in danger today, hence
the urgent need for human ecology! And the peril is grave, because the cause of
the problem is not superficial but deeply rooted. It is not merely a question of
economics but of ethics and anthropology. The Church has frequently stressed
this; and many are saying: yes, it is right, it is true... but the system
continues unchanged since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a
finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money,
money, cash commands. And God our Father gave us the task of protecting the
earth — not for money, but for ourselves: for men and women. We have this task!
Nevertheless men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and
consumption: it is the “culture of waste”. If a computer breaks it is a tragedy,
but poverty, the needs and dramas of so many people end up being considered
normal. If on a winter's night, here on the Via Ottaviano — for example —
someone dies, that is not news. If there are children in so many parts of the
world who have nothing to eat, that is not news, it seems normal. It cannot be
so! And yet these things enter into normality: that some homeless people should
freeze to death on the street — this doesn’t make news. On the contrary, when
the stock market drops 10 points in some cities, it constitutes a tragedy.
Someone who dies is not news, but lowering income by 10 points is a tragedy! In
this way people are thrown aside as if they were trash.
This “culture of waste” tends to become a common mentality that infects
everyone. Human life, the person, are no longer seen as a primary value to be
respected and safeguarded, especially if they are poor or disabled, if they are
not yet useful — like the unborn child — or are no longer of any use — like the
elderly person. This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting
and throwing out excess foodstuffs, which is especially condemnable when, in
every part of the world, unfortunately, many people and families suffer hunger
and malnutrition. There was a time when our grandparents were very careful not
to throw away any left over food. Consumerism has induced us to be accustomed to
excess and to the daily waste of food, whose value, which goes far beyond mere
financial parameters, we are no longer able to judge correctly.
Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out it is as if
it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry! I ask everyone to
reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food, to identify ways and
approaches which, by seriously dealing with this problem, convey solidarity and
sharing with the underprivileged.
A few days ago, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, we read the account of the
miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Jesus fed the multitude with five
loaves and two fish. And the end of this passage is important: “and all ate and
were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken
pieces (Lk 9:17). Jesus asked the disciples to ensure that nothing was wasted:
nothing thrown out! And there is this fact of 12 baskets: why 12? What does it
mean? Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, it represents symbolically
the whole people. And this tells us that when the food was shared fairly, with
solidarity, no one was deprived of what he needed, every community could meet
the needs of its poorest members. Human and environmental ecology go hand in
I would therefore like us all to make the serious commitment to respect and
care for creation, to pay attention to every person, to combat the culture of
waste and of throwing out so as to foster a culture of solidarity and encounter.
I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and
visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland,
the Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore and the United States. God bless you all!
Lastly, an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick
and the newlyweds. The month of June is dedicated by popular piety to the
Heart of Jesus. The Heart of Jesus teaches you, dear young people, the beauty of
loving and of feeling loved; may Christ’s Heart, dear sick people, be your
support in trials and suffering; and may it sustain you, dear newlyweds, on your
new path of married life.