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Entre Amigos Blog
By Cecilia Calvo
In his recent prayer intention video, Pope Francis asked people around the world to "take good care of creation" and to care for our common home. He emphasized, both "[b]elievers and unbelievers agree that the earth is a common heritage, the fruits of which should benefit everyone." He call us to recognize "[t]he relationship between poverty and the fragility of the planet."
During Pope Francis' recent visit to Mexico, he gave testimony to the effects of social, economic, and environmental exclusion by putting those on the margins – migrants, prisoners, workers and indigenous peoples– at the center of his trip. Through his visit to Chiapas the pope sent a powerful message. There he stood in solidarity with the country's indigenous population, who has increasingly withstood environmental and human rights abuses.
In a holy Mass with representatives of the indigenous communities of Chiapas, Pope Francis exclaimed, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who "is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor."
In his homily in Chiapas, Pope Francis said:
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she 'groans in travail' (Rom 8:22)" (Laudato Si', 2). The environmental challenge that we are experiencing, and its human causes, affects us all (cf. Laudato Si', 14) and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.
In light of the environmental crises we face and the cries of Creation and the poor, Pope Francis reiterates his call for us to examine the path we are traveling on and to examine our conscience: "How worthwhile it would be for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, "'forgive me!', 'forgive me, brothers and sisters!' Today's world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!"
If we look around, we see many signs of this "throwaway culture," which discards things and people as "leftovers," whether it is the homeless who live on our streets, the workers who produce cheap consumer goods for abysmal wages in the maquilas in Juárez, or the indigenous peoples who have been displaced from their lands or seen them contaminated by others "intoxicated by power, money and market trends."
Pope Francis calls us to examine our steps and the current path we are traveling on, to reject a "throwaway culture," and to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter.
Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. As Pope Francis said during his visit to our nation, "Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a 'culture of care' and 'an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.'"
As individuals, we can take important steps to answer Pope Francis' call to care for our common home by examining our lifestyles, reducing our consumption, and being conscious of our choices. We can also contribute on a broader scale to lasting change by working actively within our communities to address environmental challenges in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, and advocating for environmental policies that protect the poor and vulnerable in our nation and around the world.
How will you respond to Pope Francis' call to care for our common home?
Francis reminds us that "[w]e must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread" (Laudato Si', 212). .
″ Is there a local community organization you can join (or create) to promote the common good and build an integral ecology? To find a CCHD group, look on Poverty USA's website. Check out the Stories of Hope to learn how organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are working for environmental justice.
″ And to start the conversation in your parish or local community, look at the discussion guide, and other educational resources on the encyclical on the USCCB Environmental Justice Program website.
″ Learn how Catholic communities around the United States, including parishes, dioceses, schools, and religious communities, are caring for creation, at WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
″ Support Pope Francis' call to care for our common home!
Tell your Senators . . . to care for creation by helping nonprofits make needed energy-efficiency improvements and protecting a national carbon standard.
″ Take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. The Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes and organizations to live our faith by caring for God's Creation and the most vulnerable.
Cecilia Calvo is the coordinator of the USCCB Environmental Justice Program at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.
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