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Saint John Paul II: Quotes on Ecology and the Environment
Look to the future with hope, and set out with renewed vigor to make this new millennium a time of solidarity and peace, of love for life and respect for God's creation.        + May 8, 2001, Pilgrimage to Malta Nature is Our Sister Faced with the glory of the Trinity in creation, we must contemplate, sing, and rediscover awe. Contemporary society has become dry, “not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder” (G.K. Chesterton). Contemplation of the universe also means, for the believer, listening to a message, hearing a paradoxical and silent voice, as the “Psalm of the Sun” suggests: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. “There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps 19:2-4). Nature therefore becomes a Gospel that speaks to us of God: “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wis 13:5). Paul teaches us that “Ever since the creation of the world his (God's) eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom 1:20). But this capacity for contemplation and knowledge, this discovery of a transcendent presence in creation, must also lead us also to rediscover our fraternity with the earth, to which we have been linked since creation (cf Gen 2:7). This very goal was foreshadowed by the Old Testament in the Hebrew Jubilee, when the earth rested and man gathered what the land spontaneously offered (cf Lv 25:11-12).  If nature is not violated and humiliated, it returns to being the sister of humanity. + General Audience, January 26, 2000 Spokesperson for All Creation Although one might think that all created life should be a hymn of praise to the Creator, it is more correct to maintain that the human creature has the primary role in this chorus of praise. Through the human person, spokesperson for all creation, all living things praise the Lord. Our breath of life that also presupposes self- knowledge, awareness, and freedom becomes the song and prayer of the whole of life that vibrates in the universe. + General Audience, Wednesday 9 January 2002 What is Modern Man Afraid of? The man of today seems ever to be under threat from what he produces, that is to say from the result of the work of his hands and, even more so, of the work of his intellect and the tendencies of his will. All too soon, and often in an unforeseeable way, what this manifold activity of man yields is not only subjected to "alienation", in the sense that it is simply taken away from the person who produces it, but rather it turns against man himself, at least in part, through the indirect consequences of its effects returning on himself. It is or can be directed against him. This seems to make up the main chapter of the drama of present-day human existence in its broadest and universal dimension. Man therefore lives increasingly in fear. He is afraid that what he produces - not all of it, of course, or even most of it, but part of it and precisely that part that contains a special share of his genius and initiative - can radically turn against himself; he is afraid that it can become the means and instrument for an unimaginable self- destruction, compared with which all the cataclysms and catastrophes of history known to us seem to fade away. This gives rise to a question: Why is it that the power given to man from the beginning by which he was to subdue the earth turns against himself, producing an understandable state of disquiet, of conscious or unconscious fear and of menace, which in various ways is being communicated to the whole of the present-day human family and is manifesting itself under various aspects? This state of menace for man from what he produces shows itself in various directions and various degrees of intensity. We seem to be increasingly aware of the fact that the exploitation of the earth, the planet on which we are living, demands rational and honest planning. At the same time, exploitation of the earth not only for industrial but also for military purposes and the uncontrolled development of technology outside the framework of a long- range authentically humanistic plan often bring with them a threat to man's natural environment, alienate him in his relations with nature, and remove him from nature. Man often seems to see no other meaning in his natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption. Yet it was the Creator's will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble "master" and "guardian", and not as a heedless "exploiter" and "destroyer"... If therefore our time, the time of our generation, the time that is approaching the end of the second millennium of the Christian era, shows itself a time of great progress, it is also seen as a time of threat in many forms for man. The Church must speak of this threat to all people of good will and must always carry on a dialogue with them about it. Man's situation in the modern world seems indeed to be far removed from the objective demands of the moral order, from the requirements of justice, and even more of social love. We are dealing here only with that which found expression in the Creator's first message to man at the moment in which he was giving him the earth, to "subdue" it. This first message was confirmed by Christ the Lord in the mystery of the Redemption. This is expressed by the Second Vatican Council in these beautiful chapters of its teaching that concern man's "kingship"; that is to say his call to share in the kingly function - the munus regale - of Christ himself. The essential meaning of this "kingship" and "dominion" of man over the visible world, which the Creator himself gave man for his task, consists in the priority of ethics over technology, in the primacy of the person over things, and in the superiority of spirit over matter... + Excerpts from the Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, from the beginning of Pope John Paul II's Papal Ministry, 1979. Redemption as a New Creation 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 overpoweringly 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"? + Excerpts from the Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 1979. Man's Responsibility for Life To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it, is a task which God entrusts to every man, calling him as his living image to share in his own lordship over the world: 'God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth' (Gen 1:28). The biblical text clearly shows the breadth and depth of the lordship which God bestows on man. It is a matter first of all of dominion over the earth and over every living creature, as the Book of Wisdom makes clear: 'O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy... by your wisdom you have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness' (Wis 9:1,2-3). The Psalmist too extols the dominion given to man as a sign of glory and honor from his Creator: 'You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea' (Ps 8:6-8). As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological question--ranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to 'human ecology' properly speaking--which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. In fact, 'the dominion' granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to 'use and misuse', or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to 'eat of the fruit of the tree' (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity. + Evangelium Vitae, Section 42 (1995) Face of God In the era of technology our life risks becoming always more anonymous and merely a function of the production process. In this way, man becomes incapable of enjoying the beauties of the Creator and to see in them the reflection of the face of God.  + Sunday message, Italy, July, 1998 On Population Growth Clearly, the question of population is closely linked to that of human promotion, but false solutions that threaten the dignity and inviolability of life abound and present a special challenge to the Church... It is perhaps appropriate at this point to recall the Church's contribution to the defense and promotion of life through health care, social development, and education to benefit peoples, especially the poor. + Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia Environmental Protection is the Right to Protection of Life  The other great problem affecting society today is the environmental question, the problem of ecology. We all know the causes of this problem. On the occasion of the recent publication of the Encyclical Centesimus annus, the topic was treated to emphasize that “in his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way” (n. 37). On that occasion I wrote that man cannot “make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray” (ibid.). For Brazil, environmental protection is most of all the right to protection of life.  Signs of Hope VATICAN (CWNews.com) - At his regular weekly audience--conducted indoors this week, in the Paul VI auditorium- -Pope John Paul II said that the rising concern for preservation of the environment is one of the "signs of hope" which the Holy Spirit provides for our times. In Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the Pope had already called for "a livelier sense of responsibility regarding the environment." Quoting from that apostolic letter today, he went on to observe: "Today, mankind has discovered-- largely in reaction to the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources which has often accompanied industrial development--the significance and the value of an environment which remains a hospitable home for man, where mankind is destined to live." The Holy Father said that environmental dangers force world leaders in science, industry, and government to find new ways to use the earth's resources responsibly. The key challenge, he said, is "not only to limit the damage which has already been done, and apply remedies, but especially to find approaches to development which are in harmony with respect and protection for the natural environment." For believers, the Pope continued, preservation of the environment takes on a special importance insofar as the world is seen as the design of the Creator. Mankind, he pointed out, was commissioned by God to act as steward for the earth's resources, and guardian of God's "creative work." Mother Nature  Once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted. Nature itself, from being "mater" (mother), is now reduced to being "matter", and is subjected to every kind of manipulation. This is the direction in which a certain technical and scientific way of thinking, prevalent in present-day culture, appears to be leading when it rejects the very idea that there is a truth of creation which must be acknowledged, or a plan of God for life which must be respected. Something similar happens when concern about the consequences of such a "freedom without law" leads some people to the opposite position of a "law without freedom", as for example in ideologies which consider it unlawful to interfere in any way with nature, practically "divinizing" it. Again, this is a misunderstanding of nature's dependence on the plan of the Creator. + Evangelium Vitae Authentic Development It is not only a question of raising all people to the level currently enjoyed by the richest countries, but rather of building up a more decent life through united labor, of concretely enhancing every individual’s dignity and creativity, as well as his capacity to respond to his personal vocation, and thus to God’s call. The apex of development is the exercise of the right and duty to seek God, to know him and to live in accordance with that knowledge... (no. 29) It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than”'being,” and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. It is therefore necessary to create lifestyles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments... Equally worrying is the ecological question which accompanies the problem of consumerism and which is closely connected to it. In their desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, people consume the resources of the earth and their own lives in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day. Humankind, which discovers its capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through its own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are. People think that they can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to their wills, as though the earth did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which human beings can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out one's role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, a person sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him... In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of the human outlook, motivated as people are by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations... In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. Although people are rightly worried--though much less than they should be--about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic “human ecology.” Not only has God given the earth to humanity, which must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but man too is God's gift to man. A person must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed. In this context, mention should be made of the serious problems of modern urbanization, of the need for urban planning which is concerned with how people are to live, and of the attention which should be given to a “social ecology” of work... Human ingenuity seems to be directed more towards limiting, suppressing or destroying the sources of life-- including recourse to abortion, which unfortunately is so widespread in the world--than towards defending and opening up the possibilities of life... It is the task of the State to provide for the defense and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.... Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold. Certainly the mechanisms of the market offer secure advantages: they help to utilize resources better; they promote the exchange of products; above all they give central place to the person's desires and preferences, which, in a contract, meet the desires and preferences of another person. Nevertheless, these mechanisms carry the risk of an “idolatry” of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities. + Centesimus Annus (37-40) Biodiversity is Vital for the Balance of the Planet The action of believers is more important than ever. Alongside legislative and governmental bodies, all people of good will must work to ensure the effective protection of the environment, understood as a gift from God. How much ecological abuse and destruction there is in many parts of America! It is enough to think of the uncontrolled emission of harmful gases or the dramatic phenomenon of forest fires, sometimes deliberately set by people driven by selfish interest. Devastations such as these could lead to the desertification of many parts of America, with the inevitable consequences of hunger and misery. This is an especially urgent problem in the forests of Amazonia, an immense territory extending into different countries: from Brazil to Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. This is one of the world's most precious natural regions because of its biodiversity which makes it vital for the environmental balance of the entire planet.  + From the POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION ECCLESIA IN AMERICA OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND DEACONS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS, AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL ON THE ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING JESUS CHRIST: THE WAY TO CONVERSION, COMMUNION AND SOLIDARITY IN AMERICA. The Voice of Creation Only the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, is capable of raising a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator. The earth, with all its creatures, and the entire universe call on man to be their voice. + Homily, San Antonio, Texas 1987 Mary and the Redemption of Creation The providential setting of the scene of Mary's Visitation within this exceptionally beautiful city and land reminds me of the Biblical story of creation, which receives its explanation and its fulfillment in the mystery of the Incarnation. During the days of creation God looked at his handiwork and saw that what he had made was good. It could not be otherwise. The harmony of nature reflected the utter perfection of the Creator. Finally, God created man. He created him in his own image and likeness. He entrusted to him the magnificence of the world so that, by enjoying it and using its goods in a free and rational way, he would cooperate actively in bringing God's work to perfection. The Scripture says that at that time "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). But after man's original fall, the world - as his particular property - came in a sense to share his lot. Sin not only broke the bond of love between man and God and destroyed the unity of mankind, but it also disturbed the harmony of all creation. The shadow of death came down not only on the human race but also on everything that by God's will was meant to exist for man. But if we speak of the world sharing in the effects of human sin, we also know that it too could not be deprived of a share in the divine promise of the Redemption. The time for the fulfillment of this promise for mankind and for all creation arrived when Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, became the Mother of the Son of God. He is the firstborn of creation (cf. Col 1:15). Everything created was eternally in him. In coming to the world, he comes into what is his, as Saint John says (cf. Jn 1:11). He comes in order to embrace creation anew, to begin the work of the world's redemption, to restore to creation its original holiness and dignity. He comes to make us see, by his very coming, the particular dignity which belongs to created nature. As I make my way across Poland, from the Baltic, through Great Poland, Mazovia, Warmia and Masuria, and then the eastern regions - from the region of Bialystok to that of Zamosc - I contemplate the beauty of this, my native country, and I am reminded of this particular aspect of the saving mission of the Son of God. Here, the blue of the sky, the green of the woods and fields, the silver of the lakes and rivers, all seem to speak with exceptional power. Here the song of the birds sounds so very familiar, so Polish. And all this testifies to the love of the Creator, the life- giving power of his Spirit and the redemption accomplished by the Son for man and for the world. All these creatures bespeak their holiness and dignity, regained when the One who was "the firstborn of all creation" took flesh from the Virgin Mary. If today I speak of this holiness and dignity, I do so in a spirit of thankfulness to God, who has done such great things for us; but I do so likewise in a spirit of concern for the preservation of the goodness and beauty bestowed by the Creator. For there is a danger that everything that brings such joy to the eye and such exultation to the spirit can be destroyed. I know that the Polish Bishops voiced this concern ten years ago, appealing to all people of good will in a Pastoral Letter on the protection of the environment. They rightly wrote that "all man's activity, as the activity of a responsible agent, has a moral dimension. Destruction of the environment harms the good of creation given to man by God the Creator as something indispensable for his life and his development. We have a duty to make good use of this gift in a spirit of gratitude and respect. The realization that this gift is destined for all men, that it is a common good, also gives rise to a corresponding duty with regard to others. We therefore need to realize that every action which ignores God's rights over his world, as well as the rights of man bestowed upon him by the Creator, is in conflict with the commandment of love... We need to realize therefore that there can be a grave sin against the natural environment, one which weighs on our consciences, and which calls for grave responsibility towards God the Creator" (2 May 1989). In speaking of responsibility before God, we know that it is not just a matter of what is nowadays called ecology. It is not enough to seek the cause of the world's destruction only in excessive industrialization, uncritical applications in industry and agriculture of scientific and technological advances, or in an unbridled pursuit of wealth without concern for the future effects of all these actions. Although it cannot be denied that these actions do cause great harm, it is easy to see that their source is deeper: it lies in man's very attitude. It appears that what is most dangerous for creation and for man is lack of respect for the laws of nature and the disappearance of a sense of the value of life. The law written by God in nature and capable of being read by reason leads to respect for the Creator's plan, a plan which is meant for the benefit of mankind. This law establishes a certain inner order which man discovers and which he must preserve. Any activity in conflict with this order inevitably does damage to man himself. This happens when the sense of the value of life as such, and of human life in particular, disappears. How can nature be effectively defended if justification is claimed for acts which strike at the very heart of creation, which is human life? Is it really possible to oppose the destruction of the environment while allowing, in the name of comfort and convenience, the slaughter of the unborn and the procured death of the elderly and the infirm, and the carrying out, in the name of progress, of unacceptable interventions and forms of experimentation at the very beginning of human life? When the good of science or economic interests prevail over the good of the person, and ultimately of whole societies, environmental destruction is a sign of a real contempt for man. All who have at heart the good of man in this world need to bear constant witness to the fact that "respect for life, and above all for the dignity of the human person, is the ultimate guiding norm for any sound economic, industrial or scientific progress" (Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, No. 7). "All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together... For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross" (Col 1:16-17,19-20). These words of Saint Paul seem to describe the Christian way to defend that good which is the whole created world. It is the way of reconciliation in Christ. Through the blood of his Cross and through his Resurrection, Christ has restored to creation its original order. Henceforth the whole world, with man at its center, has been snatched from the slavery of death and corruption (cf. Rom 8:21) and in a certain sense has been created anew (cf. Rev 21:5); it now exists no longer for death but for life, for new life in Christ. Thanks to his union with Christ, man rediscovers his proper place in the world. In Christ he experiences anew that original harmony which existed between Creator, creation and man before man succumbed to the effects of sin. In Christ man re-reads his original call to subdue the earth, which is the continuation of God's work of creation rather than the unbridled exploitation of creation. The beauty of this land leads me to appeal its preservation for future generations. If you love our native land, do not let this appeal go unanswered! In a special way I call upon those who have been entrusted with responsibility for this country and its development, and I urge them not to neglect their duty of protecting it against environmental destruction. Let them devise programs for the protection of the environment and ensure that they are properly put into effect! Above all, let them train people to show respect for the common good, for the laws of nature and of life! May they be supported by organizations which work for the protection of natural resources! In the family and in the schools there must be training in respect for life, goodness and beauty. All people of good will should cooperate in this great task. All followers of Christ ought to examine their own life-style, to ensure that the legitimate pursuit of prosperity does not suppress the voice of conscience which judges what is right and what is truly good. In speaking of respect for the land, I cannot forget those who are most closely linked to it and know its value and dignity. I think of the farm-workers who, not only here in Zamosc but throughout Poland, perform the hard work in the fields, making them yield the products essential for the life of those living in the cities and villages. Only those who till the land can really testify that the barren earth does not produce fruit, but when cared for lovingly it is a generous provider. With gratitude and respect I bow before those who for centuries have made this land fruitful by the sweat of their brow, and who - when it was necessary to defend it - did not spare even their blood. With the same gratitude and respect I also speak to all who today are engaged in the hard work of tilling the land. May God bless the work of your hands!    I know that at a time of social and economic changes there are many problems which often painfully affect the Polish countryside. The process of reform needs to recognize the problems of farm-workers and resolve them in the spirit of social justice. I speak of this in the land of Zamosc, where the rural question has been discussed for centuries. We need only recall the works of Szymon Szymonowic, or the work of the Rural Society founded in Hrubieszów two hundred years ago. Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, as Bishop of this area and later Primate of Poland, often mentioned the importance of farming for the Nation and the State, and the need for all social groups to show solidarity with the rural communities. Today I cannot fail to take up this tradition. I do so by repeating with the Prophet these words filled with hope: "As the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations" (Is 61:11). Let us look to Mary and invoke her in the words of Elizabeth: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45). Blessed are you, Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. Today we entrust to you the destiny of the land of Zamosc, of the Polish countryside and of all who live and work there, carrying out the Creator's command to subdue it. Guide us with your faith in this new era which is opening up before us. Be with us together with your Son, Jesus Christ, who wishes to be for us the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. + Liturgy of the Word celebrated in Zamosc, Poland on June 12, 1999 A Delicate Balance Pollution of air and water threaten more and more the delicate balance of the biosphere on which present and future generations depend and makes us realize that we all share a common ecological environment. + The Pope in America II (St. Paul: Wanderer Press, 1987), p. 130 © Copyright 1978 Libreria Editrice Vaticana More quotes by Saint John Paul II ->  
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