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Care for environment is key to peace, Pope argues

Catholic World News - December 15, 2009

“If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation,” writes Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the World Day of Peace.

The World Day of Peace is observed each year on January 1. The papal message for that day was released by the Vatican on December 15. Cardinal Renato Martino, who recently resigned his post as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, chaired a press conference introducing the document, which focuses on care for the environment. “Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person,” the Pope writes. He explains that the degradation of the environment jeopardizes the welfare of the poor and especially of future generations. “A greater sense of inter-generational solidarity is urgently needed,” the Pope says. Warning that a lack of concern for the stewardship of creation is causing damage to the environment, the Holy Father points to “signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously.” He writes:

Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world.

The Pope cites several problems are evidence of a growing need to address environmental concerns: pollution and deforestation, the aggressive exploitation of natural resources found in impoverished countries, the conflict that have arisen over control of those resources, the spread of untrammeled consumerism, the appearance of “environmental refugees” who leave their homes to escape a degraded habitat. These problems, he said, are “ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated.”

To address these crises, and to build an economic system that allows for sustainable and equitable development, we need to adopt “a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity,” the Pope says. He notes that solidarity should extend to the poor of our own generation—who are most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation—but also to future generations, who will be forced to cope with whatever environmental damage we have done. The Pope writes:

It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view.

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