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June 19, 2003 - Pope John Paul II and the Ecological Crisis

By: Education for Justice

On the occasion of the 5th Symposium of the Religion, Science and Environment Project, Pope John Paul II sent a message to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. The following are excerpts from Pope John Paul II's message:

"On a number of occasions I have commented on the growing awareness among individuals, and indeed the entire international community, of the need to respect the environment and the natural resources which God has given humanity.

It is imperative however that the true nature of the ecological crisis be understood. The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment can never be detached from their relationship with God. When [an individual] "turns his back on the Creator's plan, [the individual] provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order" (Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, #5). Ecological irresponsibility is at heart a moral problemí¢â‚¬"founded upon an anthropological errorí¢â‚¬"which arises when [humans] forget that [their] ability to transform the world must always respect God's design of creation (cf. Centesimus Annus, #37).

. . . the effects of ecological irresponsibility often transcend the borders of individual nations. Similarly, solutions to this problem will necessarily involve acts of solidarity which transcend political divisions or unnecessarily narrow industrial self-interests.

Christians must always be ready to assume in unison their responsibility within the divine design for creation, a responsibility which leads to a vast field of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation. As we stated, a solution to ecological challenges demands more than just economic and technological proposals. It requires an inner change of heart which leads to the rejection of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. It demands an ethical behavior which respects the principles of universal solidarity, social justice and responsibility."

Source: ZENIT

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Discussion Questions
Discuss how an individual's relationship with God is related to his/her relationship with the environment. Also, discuss how a community's relationship with God is related to its relationship with the environment.

Pope John Paul II states that we "must always respect God's design of creation." What are ways in which we, as individuals and as communities, can discern God's design of creation?

Some ecological problemsí¢â‚¬"global warming, for exampleí¢â‚¬"transcend the borders of individual nations. Brainstorm a list of ecological problems that affect more than one country. How are nations working together to find solutions to these problems? What more can be done?

People in the "developed" countries of the Global North (like the United States), consume 80% of the world's resources, while many billions of people in "developing countries," (in Africa and elsewhere) use only 20%. Pope John Paul II states that we must reject these "unsustainable patterns of consumption and production." What are ways in which we, as individuals and communities, can begin to change these patterns? What are some ways that we can educate others about these unsustainable patterns?

Discuss the relationships between ecology, universal solidarity, social justice and responsibility.

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Gracious God,
teach us to conserve, preserve, and use wisely
the blessed treasures of our wealth-stored Earth.
Help us to share your bounty, not waste it,
or pervert it into peril for our children or our neighbors in other nations.
You who are life and energy and blessings,
teach us to revere and respect our tender world.

Type of content: Article with discussion questions
Other tags: In the News