40 years ago

The papacy of Saint John Paul II brought concern for creation into the Church in bold, new ways

On October 16, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła the 263rd Successor of Saint Peter. His papacy had immense impacts on the world and on the life of a troubled Church—including bringing eco-concerns deep within Church teachings.

His first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, "The Redeemer of Man," places eco concerns into a powerful, theological text—a forerunner for the many words Pope John Paul II would write and speak about ecology throughout his papacy. Words that created a foundation for his successors.

The Redeemer of the world! In him has been revealed in a new and more wonderful way the fundamental truth concerning creation to which the Book of Genesis gives witness when it repeats several times: "God saw that it was good". The good has its source in Wisdom and Love. In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man—the world that, when sin entered, "was subjected to futility"—recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged. Are we of the twentieth century not convinced of the over poweringly eloquent words of the Apostle of the Gentiles concerning the "creation (that) has been groaning in travail together until now" and "waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God", the creation that "was subjected to futility"? Does not the previously unknown immense progress—which has taken place especially in the course of this century—in the field of man's dominion over the world itself reveal-to a previously unknown degree-that manifold subjection "to futility"? It is enough to recall certain phenomena, such as the threat of pollution of the natural environment in areas of rapid industrialization, or the armed conflicts continually breaking out over and over again, or the prospectives of self-destruction through the use of atomic, hydrogen, neutron and similar weapons, or the lack of respect for the life of the unborn. The world of the new age, the world of space flights, the world of the previously unattained conquests of science and technology—is it not also the world "groaning in travail" that "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God"? (Redemptor Hominis, 8)

John Paul II's answer to this and other questions make for good reading!

Another wonderful eco-reflection is this General Audience.

It would take dozens of blog posts to unpack all that John Paul II did and said for the Catholic perspective of ecology. But we need not know every nuance to pause today and thank this great man—this saint—and humbly ask for his intercession in our eco-efforts today.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.