The Vatican and the Environment

By Judith Akolo

Pope Francis who will be making his maiden visit to Kenya next week is calling for an “ecological conversion” for the faithful in his encyclical on the environment.

The messages by different Pontiffs have been that much more must be done to save the earth from self destruction occasioned by humanity’s activities.

However, the Vatican message on climate change and environmental degradation began in 1971.

Pope Paul VI in 1971, raised concerns over the unbridled exploitation of the soils in an effort to gain as much as possible from agriculture referring to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.

He warned that unless the exploitation of earth’s resources is accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, the overexploitation will definitively turn against humanity.

Later Pope John Paul II in his first Encyclical warned that the human population was over exploiting the earth’s resources in the environment for immediate use and consumption.

His successor Pope Benedict XVI in his message told the world that over exploitation had led to a dysfunctional global economy. Pope Benedict the XVI proposed the elimination of structures that do not respect the environment and which had resulted in the dysfunctions.

According to Pope Benedict XVI the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, are all part of the universe and need to be safeguarded. Pope Benedict XVI asked the world to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by irresponsible behavior.

Francis is no stranger to the environment conservation campaign.

Pope Francis is calling for an “ecological conversion” for the faithful in his sweeping new encyclical on the environment. He warns of harming birds and industrial waste and calls for renewable fuel subsidies and energy efficiency.

His key concern is that Climate change has grave implications adding that “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.”

Pope Francis feels that Christians have misinterpreted Scripture and “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

During his visit to Kenya Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with diplomats at the United Nations Environment Program headquarters in the Gigiri which will come a few days before the UN climate change conference in Paris.


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