“For more than a year, we have all experienced the devastating effects of a global pandemic—all of us, whether poor or wealthy, weak or strong. Some were more protected or vulnerable than others, but the rapidly-spreading infection meant that we have depended on each other in our efforts to stay safe.” “No-one is safe until everyone is safe”.
These observations begin the “Joint Message for the Protection of Creation” issued on 1 September by Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. The religious leaders note that in facing this worldwide calamity, “no one is safe until everyone is safe,” because “our actions really do affect one another,” and “what we do today affects what happens tomorrow.” See full text of Joint Message for the Protection of Creation – Sept 1, 2021
The joint message comes in the midst of the 2021 Season of Creation running from 1 September through 4 October, which presents “an opportunity to pray and care for God’s creation.” It also comes as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), scheduled to take place in November, in Glasgow, Scotland, to deliberate on the future of our planet.
Not wasting a moment
Urging everyone to action so that we may “not waste this moment”, the religious leaders invite everyone to “decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations,” stressing that we must choose to live differently and “choose life”. God mandates that we “choose life, so that you and your children might live” (Dt 30:19).
The message invites all of us, regardless of belief or worldview, to “endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.”
The religious leaders point out that amid the climate crisis, we stand before “a harsh justice” marked by biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change – all inevitable consequences of our actions – because we “have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure.”
However, we also face “a profound injustice,” as “the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”
“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice,” the message reads.
Humanity working together
If humanity as a family works together towards a future based on the common good, we could find ourselves living in a different world, the message says.
“Together we can share a vision for life where everyone flourishes. Together we can choose to act with love, justice and mercy. Together we can walk towards a fairer and fulfilling society with those who are most vulnerable at the centre.”
However, this involves making changes that involve individual responsibility for our use of resources. It will also require “an ever-closer collaboration among all churches in their commitment to care for creation” and for communities and nations to “discover new ways of working together to break down the traditional barriers between peoples, to stop competing for resources and start collaborating.”
Concluding their message, the religious leaders reiterate their appeal to every Christian, believer and people of goodwill to play a part in changing our collective response to the threat of climate change and environmental degradation.
They also prayed for the world leaders who will gather for the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in November, recalling that “choosing life means making sacrifices and exercising self-restraint.”
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury also note that this is the first time they have felt compelled to jointly address “the urgency of sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.”
“Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment,” they said. “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”
You can explore the following useful links: Pope and ecumenical leaders: Caring for God’s creation requires commitment – Vatican News and also article by ncronline.org – Choose Life by choosing to Care for Creation
To find out about COP26 see COP26 in 2021 – Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie) and the Season of Creation see A Season of Creation – Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie)