Reasons why B16 spoke today on ecology

Benedict XVI met with new ambassadors to the Holy See today. In his talks he made it clear that ecological protection is an issue that must be seen in relation to how the Church and the state partner to building up the common good. The Holy Father's emphasis on ecology still has people wondering why he's so emphatic about environmental protection.

I’ll get to that below, but first, his words. In his address to Mr. George Robert Furness Troup, ambassador from New Zealand, the Holy Father said:

Faithful to the best of its traditions, New Zealand is called to use its position of influence for the peace and stability of the region, the encouragement of mature and stable democratic institutions, and the fostering of authentic human rights and sustainable economic development. The desire for development poses a number of important challenges concerning the environment, some of them with serious consequences for people’s well-being and livelihoods, and especially for the poor. I would like to encourage the work being done to promote models of development at home and abroad that reflect a truly human ecology, are economically sustainable and fulfil our duty as stewards of creation (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 48; 51).
To H.E. Mrs. Geneviève D. Tsegah of Ghana:

Your Excellency, your land has been blessed with natural resources which are now bringing prosperity to your people. It is much to be hoped that, through social solidarity, the proceeds from the correct exploitation of these resources will contribute to the sustainable economic development of your people. Let this be achieved, however, while giving due attention to those who are much poorer, or unable to provide for their families through no fault of their own. In this sense, may your country give an example in establishing effective instruments of solidarity (cf. Centesimus Annus, 16), to the true enrichment of all members of society.
In a talk to the complete assembly of the new ambassadors, Benedict XVI noted the global issue of energy. While the talk was delivered in French, the international language of diplomacy, and with no English version on the Vatican website (yet, anyway) the Catholic News Agency reports the following:

Vatican City, Jun 9, 2011 / 12:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The governments of the world should back “the exploitation of clean energy sources,” Pope Benedict XVI said June 9.

The Pope made his remarks in an address to a group of ambassadors at the Vatican. His comments came on the same day Switzerland voted to phase-out its nuclear energy program.

“The first half of this year has been marked by many tragedies that have affected nature, technology and people,” the Pope said in reference to the March earthquake in Japan that triggered radioactive leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

At the same time, the Pope cautioned, “Man, to whom God has entrusted the safeguarding of nature, cannot be dominated by technology or become its object.”

The Pope said this awareness should lead all countries to “reflect on the short-term future of the planet” and “their responsibilities with regard to our life and technology.”

“Human ecology,” he stressed, “is an imperative.”

“We must adopt a lifestyle that respects the environment and support research and the exploitation of clean energy sources, respectful of the heritage of creation and harmless to humans, these must be our political and economic priorities.”

The Pope’s comments carry a particular political significance for many western countries currently questioning the future of their nuclear industries. Today’s vote in the Swiss parliament follows an identical decision in Germany last month. Pope Benedict’s homeland will now phase out nuclear power by 2022.

The Pope said we all have to undergo a “change of mentality” so as to arrive at “an overall lifestyle that respects the balance between man and nature.”

“All governments must commit to protect nature and help it fulfill its essential role in the survival of humanity,” he said, suggesting that the United Nations seems to be the obvious forum to achieve this.

Pope Benedict also critiqued the way that technology is sometimes used without any ethical consideration.

He warned that when societies believe that technology is the “exclusive agent of progress or happiness” they make embark on a road that “leads to blindness and misery.”

He told the assembled ambassadors that putting too much trust in “an all powerful and ultimately uncontrolled technology” deprives man of his humanity. The antidote to this, he said, was for governments to “promote a humanism that respects the spiritual and religious dimension of man.”
Interestingly, a commenter on the story, who calls himself Joseph, had this reaction:
What does this have to do with preaching the Gospel and saving souls found only in Christ and in his Catholic Church? More evangelization and less social justice from the post-conciliar hierarchy would be nice.
To this I would respond that the Holy Father is doing just that: Evangelizing.

One must understand that Benedict XVI sees the fullness of revelation as having a historical character. The eternal truths of the Gospel and of tradition speak anew to each age. As such, he is ever aware that the Church must speak of modern issues to be relevant and to be in dialogue with the world in which it finds itself. It is such dialogue that is the engine of evangelization.

Today’s world struggles with ecological issues, and so the Holy Father discusses these issues not merely because he is interested in social justice, but because he seeks to incorporate the Gospel into world affairs. In other words, he is doing what the Church has always done when guided by the Holy Spirit. He is baptizing history and current events by being part of the world—that is, by being incarnational.

With that in mind, you may want to reread that CNA story and see how this is all playing out in the words of His Holiness, Benedict XVI.

Once again, God bless this pontiff! And may his awareness of our damage to creation spark an interest in many to come and see the glory that awaits them when joining the body of Christ.

Image: Paul preaches to the Thessalonians. Engraving by Gustave Dore (1832 – 1883)

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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.