Paul Simmons

Church teaching on the environment

by Pope Benedict XVI
(175pp, HB, ISBN 978-1-61278-628-5. Our Sunday Visitor RRP $29.90. Available from Freedom Publishing for $25.00)

As Pope Francis prepares to release an encyclical on environmental questions, there have been a number of analyses of the Holy Father's previous writings on these subjects, as well as criticism of the fact that he has sought advice from extreme environmentalists which sees man as an enemy of the natural order.

In this important book, Pope Francis' predecessor set out the church's beliefs and teachings, in a series of articles and talks collected by Jacquelyn Lindsey, with an introduction by Cardinal Peter Turkson.

Cardinal Turkson points out that Benedict had "an inner obligation to struggle for the preservation of the environment and to oppose the destruction of creation."

Since the time of St Francis of Assisi, Christians have understood clearly that their role is to recognise the beauty in nature, to work the preservation of the natural order, and to use it constructively for the benefit of all mankind.

In this book, Pope Benedict repeatedly repeats those principles, whether applied to the preservation of the Amazon region in South America, "a region so harshly tried and whose ecological balance is so threatened, in their majestic beauty, in rivers and forests, speak to us of God of his grandiose work for humanity."

He also speaks of the importance of investing in agriculture to combat "the various factors that hinder the fight against hunger, many of them man-made."

He added, "In Christian tradition, agricultural labour takes on a deeper meaning, both because of the effort and hardship that it involves, and also because it offers a privileged experience of God's presence and his love for his creatures."

Speaking just after the outbreak of the Global Financial Crisis, he wrote, "The full gravity of the current economic crisis, discussed these past few days at the G20 Summit, should be understood.

"This crisis has numerous causes and is a strong reminder of the need for a profound revision of the model of global economic development.

"It is an acute symptom which has been added to a long list of many far more serious and well-known problems, such as the lasting imbalance between wealth and poverty, the scandal of world hunger, the ecological emergency, and the now widespread problem of unemployment.

"In this context, a strategic revitalisation of agriculture is crucial."

All this shows an enlightened sense of the need to protect the natural environment, not because of a naïve or sentimental attachment to wilderness, but in the interests of present and future generations of mankind, and in fulfilment of the obligation of mankind to be good stewards of creation.

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