Pope Francis on environmental justice
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2015 - 12:00am

Pope Francis once said that when he talked about certain subjects close to his heart “ some people will think the pope is communist.” He was referring to a speech he made last October to the World Meeting of Popular Movements. He said that the poor need land, a roof over his head and work.

He talked on the rights of the poor, the injustice of unemployment and the need for environmental protection saying that he was not preaching communism but the Gospel. He said: “They do not understand that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel...Demanding  this is not unusual, it is the social doctrine of the church.”

Several times he has made the call for the church to be a “poor church, for the poor.” Perhaps Pope Francis should first convince certain members of the clergy who live a luxurious lifestyle, insist on air conditioned churches and do not pay their workers a living wage, to set the example for the laity.

He also promised to  issue an encyclical on ecology, climate change and the protection of the environment. He is reported to have prepared an encyclical on creation and the ecology that would be issued at the start of 2015.

In his Apostolic Exhortations  issued in November 2013, he mentioned the Philippines in the paragraph on environmental protection. He said:

“There are other weak and defenceless beings who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation. I am speaking of creation as a whole. We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our lives and those of future generations.

Here I would make my own touching and prophetic lament voiced some years ago by the bishops of the Philippines: ‘An incredible variety of insects lived in the forest and were busy with all kinds of tasks...Birds flew through the air, their bright plumes and varying calls adding color and song to the green of the forests God intended this land for us, his special creatures, but not so that we might destroy it and turn it to wasteland...After a single night’s rain, look at the chocolate brown rivers in your locality and remember that they are  carrying the life blood of the land into the sea...How can fish swim in sewers like the Pasig and so many more rivers which we have polluted? Who has turned the wonderworld of the seas into the underwater cemeteries of color and life.”

It seems that the concern of Pope Francis for the environment has been partly inspired by the message of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines. However, he seems to have also consulted the Franciscan Order for advice regarding his proposed encyclical on the environment. St. Francis of Assissi, the founder of the Order, was a well known lover of nature and legend says he was able to communicate with birds and other creatures of nature.

In choosing the name of Francis, the new pope may have been sending a signal regarding his own personal concern for the obligation of mankind to be the steward of nature. Regarding the discussion with Pope Francis on his new encyclical on Creation and the respect for the environment, Father Michael Anthony Perry , Minister General of the Franciscan Order, said:

“The Pope himself brought up the issue of the environment. And he talked about his deep concern that we need, the Church needs, to find the way to respond, using the best of science. But also using the best of goodwill of all of humanity, to bring together a consensus on trying to respond to the crisis, the ecological crisis.”

However, last year, Father Perry also said that the world will have to wait for the encyclical to sometime early 2015: “ Keep in mind that the Pope, the Church, in October will have a Synod on family life. There will be a pre-Synod and then the Synod. So the Pope is going to be very busy preparing for that Synod. So sometime after October, may be November. He might wait until the beginning of the new year ( 2015).”

The Franciscan Order have taken controversial stand on many environmental issues. For example, here are excerpts from one of their position paper released in 2011 entitled Indonesia: Mining Industry and the Dream of Prosperity:

 “There is no evidence that the majority of Indonesians are becoming more prosperous as a result of the mining industry...In Sirise, West Flores, a manganese mine has been in operation in operation since the 1980s. Mountains have been flattened, forests crushed and manganese mined to make money, but the life of the local people stays the same, and has even worsened.”

In the same paper, the Franciscans state: “The phrase environmental justice links the concept of ecology and social justice. It highlights the strong relationship that exists between the ecological question and the issues of justice, peace and the defense of the rights of individuals and peoples.”

Will the encyclical be influenced by the bishops of the Philippines and the Franciscans. In his Apostolic Exhortations Pope Francis wrote: “Small yet strong in the love of God, like St. Francis of Assissi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile in which we live, and all its peoples.” I fully expect a powerful and world changing encyclical on creation, ecology and the protection of the environment.

Where The Write Things Are

Regular Young Writers’ Saturday Hangout for kids and teens will resume on Jan. 24, 1 pm-2:30 pm at the Canadian American School (6F The City Club Alphaland Makati).  There will also be a pop up writing class at Fully Booked Alabang Town Center on Jan. 24, 1 pm - 2:30 pm with children’s book author, Grace Chong.  For more details and registration contact 0917-6240196 / writethingsph@gmail.com

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

APOSTOLIC EXHORTATIONS APOSTOLIC EXHORTATIONS POPE FRANCIS CANADIAN AMERICAN SCHOOL CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF THE PHILIPPINES CITY CLUB ALPHALAND MAKATI FRANCISCAN ORDER POPE POPE FRANCIS ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISSI
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