Benedict on Saving the Planet, Impromptu
Pope Benedict XVI is at his best when taking impromptu questions. Recently, in a meeting between Benedict and ecclesiastics of the Italian Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, Father Karl Golser asked the Pope how to increase the sense of responsibility for creation among Christian communities, and how to strengthen the link between creation and redemption. (Fr. Golser is the Director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and the Preservation of Creation.)
In his reply, Benedict noted that, "In recent decades the doctrine of creation had almost disappeared from theology,” causing tremendous damage because, “if we do not proclaim God in his full grandeur—as Creator and as Redeemer—we also diminish the value of the redemption." At the same time, he emphasized that Christ was able to enter history redemptively precisely because he is the Creator.
For Benedict, this demands a specifically Christian attitude toward created things: "As long as the earth was seen as God's creation,” he noted, “ the task of 'subduing' it was never intended as an order to enslave it, but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and developing its gifts; of actively collaborating in God's work ourselves, in the evolution that he ordered in the world so that the gifts of creation might be appreciated rather than trampled upon and destroyed."
Thus Christians ought to have a profound sense of responsibility for Creation:
The brutal consumption of creation begins where God is not, where matter is henceforth only material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate demand, where the whole is merely our property and we consume it for ourselves alone…. And the wasting of creation begins when we no longer recognize any need superior to our own, but see only ourselves. It begins when there is no longer any concept of life beyond death, where in this life we must grab hold of everything and possess life as intensely as possible, where we must possess all that is possible to possess.
In conclusion, the Pope stressed that “true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of creation can be implemented and developed, understood and lived, only where creation is considered as beginning with God.”
This is not merely another case of the profundity of Benedict’s impromptu responses. It also demonstrates the Pope’s remarkable understanding of the ultimate connectedness of all things. For everything, both historically and logically, begins and ends in Christ, who is at once alpha and omega, origin and fulfillment. Thus are creation and redemption linked. Our understanding of the worth of redemption can only increase with our appreciation of the wonder of creation, for is it not all of creation that has been redeemed? St. Paul explains in Romans:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (8:20-24)
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