VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - On the occasion of World Environment Day, Pope Francis has made an impassioned plea to the "great human family" to protect "Mother Earth" and the most marginalized in society, two signature focuses of his pontificate.
Writing to the president of the Republic of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, whose country was chosen to host World Environment Day 2020, the pontiff said Friday that "protection of the environment and respect for the biodiversity of the planet are issues that affect us all."
The pontiff invited all people — given "the gravity of the situation" — "to become more committed to the care and protection of our common home, and of our most vulnerable and marginalized brothers and sisters in society."
He said: "The wounds inflicted on our mother earth are wounds that also bleed in us," adding, "We cannot pretend to be healthy in a world that is sick."
Urging action, the pontiff said:
We cannot remain silent before the outcry when we realize the very high costs of the destruction and exploitation of the ecosystem. This is not a time to continue looking the other way, indifferent to the signs that our planet is being plundered and violated by greed for profit, very often in the name of progress.
Knocking what he called "quick and easy profit," he said, "Caring for ecosystems demands a look to the future, one that is not concerned only with the immediate moment or that seeks a quick and easy profit, but rather one that is concerned for life and that seeks its preservation for the benefit of all."
Francis also referenced his second encyclical Laudato Si' (Praise Be to You!) — a sort of environmentalist guide for the new Church of Francis, according to many critics — designating "a special year to reflect on the encyclical, from May 24 this year until May 24 ."
The encyclical begins with an excerpt from St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of the Creatures": "Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs."
Francis attributes to "sister, Mother Earth" human qualities in the encyclical when he claims she "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."
World Environment Day, celebrated annually on June 5, was conducted virtually this year due to the Wuhan pandemic instead of onsite in Bogotá, Columbia. The pope said, "This challenging situation reminds us that in the face of adversity, new paths always open in order for us to be united as a great human family."
It is an annual event sponsored by the United Nations dedicated to "promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment."
Reflecting the pope's impassioned rhetoric and global vision, Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Program Inger Andersen said: "2020 is a year for urgency, ambition and action to address the crisis facing nature. It is also an opportunity to more fully incorporate nature-based solutions into global climate action."
According to the World Environment Day website, "The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature," underscoring both Inger's and the pope's positions.
World Environment Day is to be distinguished from Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 1 since 1970. According to the Earth Day website, its organizers promise that "in the face of global challenges, we remain as committed as ever," reflecting the same stridency as the organizers of World Environmental Day.
Earth Day was co-founded by Ira Einhorn, an environmental activist from Philadelphia who was convicted in absentia of the 1977 murder of his girlfriend after he skipped bail and fled to Europe. Einhorn's name is often erased from histories of Earth Day.
The pope referred to Jesus and Mary in the last sentence of his letter to the Colombian president when he said: "May Jesus bless you and the Blessed Virgin watch over you."