Pope says neglect of environment as great a threat as terrorism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

VATICAN CITY, December 2009: Neglect of the natural environment is as great a threat to peace and prosperity as global terrorism, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said in his most extensive ecological statement to date, released by the Vatican on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

"If You Want To Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation," is the title of Benedict's message for the 43rd annual World Day of Peace, which will be observed on January 1. The full text of the message can be found on the website of the Holy See here (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091208_xliii-world-day-peace_en.html).

Reciting a litany of environmental woes – including climate change, desertification, water pollution, the loss of biodiversity, and depletion of rain forests – the His Holiness stressed their "profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development."

The Holy Father connected this "ecological crisis" to the globe's current economic troubles and lack of equitable food distribution, which are all "ultimately also moral crises" that call for a "profound, long-term review of our model of development" and a "lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity."

Such solidarity should extend not only between rich and poor nations but across time, the Pope wrote, with every generation conscious of its duty to exercise stewardship of the earth for the benefit of those to come.

The message linked responsibility to personal morality, insisting that the "book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics."

The Holy Father did not specifically mention the United Nations climate summit that was under way in Copenhagen when he wrote his message. But Benedict's message notably called for "efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth's resources."

Pope Benedict has addressed environmental problems in previous World Peace Day messages, and in his encyclical on social teaching published in June, but this is his first major text devoted to the topic.

Its release marks the 20th anniversary of "Peace With God the Creator, Peace With All of Creation," by Pope John Paul II, also written for World Peace Day, and widely considered the start of the Vatican's engagement with the environmental movement.

The Holy Father is not the only one who has likened the threats to the global environment to be as much of a danger to the world as global terrorism, of whichever brand; others have done so too. Many, however, have forgotten the other issues which His Holiness has raised though, such as the pollution of air, water and soil, and the destruction of forests, and I would like add, not only tropical rainforests.

The world would do well to heed this message from the Holy Father, in the same way as the world would do well to heed the messages that have been put out by leaders of the Indigenous Peoples, such as the American Indians, as to the issue of the environment.

When we learn how too treat Mother right maybe, just maybe, we will also learn how to treat ever part of Creation with respect.

© 2009