A Pope Garbed in Green

On Tuesday, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is one of Pope Francis’ advisors on the matter of reforming the Catholic Church, defended the Pope’s views on capitalism and poverty. Stating that the elimination of the structural causes of poverty is an urgent issue, he also argued that the focus placed by modern society on markets and profit lead to the environment being set aside and easily ignored.

This is not the first time the Pope’s concern for the environment has been brought up. He has pointed out before that, from a Catholic perspective, Creation as a whole and thus the natural environment which surrounds us is often seen not as a gift but a resource to be exploited. It is this type of view which worries him and which may so easily lead to the abuse of the Earth and its ecosystem.  

Echoing the voices of many others who have discussed our relationship with the planet we live on, Pope Francis has called for us to regard ourselves not as owners but stewards of nature. We will benefit not through trying to reap all we can, he maintains, but through caring for the world we inhabit. Making a biblical argument for the protection of the world’s natural resources, he has also said that it is sinful to care solely for ourselves at the environment’s expense, going on to state that “if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!”

Last week, Pope Francis met with legislators from around the world in order to discuss the issue of climate change and is soon expected to release an encyclical letter to all bishops on the topic of the environment. Such dedication to the cause of environmental protection from a global religious leader is admirable and certainly helps place one of the greatest threats faced by modern society on the spot.

The Pope has taken not only a religious stance on this topic, but an inherently ethical one as well. Internationally known for his concern for the poor and disadvantaged, his argument is simple yet laden with moral judgement: protecting the environment is the right thing to do. We are ultimately part of this planet’s ecosystem and thus owe it to ourselves to live in harmony with it. Hearing such discourse from a globally-renowned leader is both refreshing and sobering. While it is certainly important to think of the economic and political issues involved in caring for the planet, we must not forget that it is ultimately the people, particularly those whose voices are often not heard, who will suffer or benefit from whatever decisions are to be made.

By Bernie Esteves, EDN Intern