Thu, Jun 18th 2015 02:00 pm
Bishop Malone addresses the media
For much of June, the Catholic Church and the rest of the world prepared
for Pope Francis' anticipated encyclical entitled "Laudato Si,"
or"Praised Be." The pontiff discussed climate change, the dire state of
the environment, social inequality, Catholics' responsibility to be good
stewards of the environment and all of humanity's duty to promote ways
of life that foster respect for creation.
Bishop Richard J. Malone spoke of the importance of Pope Francis'
message during a press conference held at the Buffalo Niagara
International Airport Thursday. Members of the Diocesan Care for
Creation Committee, a group formed in 2006 under Bishop Edward U. Kmiec
to spread local awareness of environmental issues, and Franciscan
fathers and sisters joined him.
"It's really an exciting day for the Catholic Church around the world
and for us, of course, right here in Buffalo, and for all people. This
is the long-awaited day of the publication of the Holy Father's
encyclical on care for the environment," Bishop Malone said. "It's not
that it's all new teaching - the teaching of the Catholic Church on care
for the environment goes way, way back into biblical times, into the
Book of Genesis."
Bishop Malone noted in the story of Creation, God asked the human race
to care for what He had created. More recently, St. John Paul II called
upon all of humanity to treat the environment with care as one of its
obligations. Pope Benedict XVI, to whom some referred as the "Green
Pope," oversaw the installation of solar panels in the Vatican and tried
to raise consciousness among the public, the bishop added.
"Pope Francis, who has such a wide embrace of what his pastoral ministry
is, it's an embrace of mercy, not just for the human race but for the
whole world, mercy for creation," Bishop Malone said. "He has really
developed this in a much more profound and detailed way than any of his
predecessors, and it's going to be a challenge not only to Catholics and
other Christians, but a challenge to the whole world to learn and pay
close attention to what the Holy Father is saying - basically, that the
earth is our home, that we are not somehow, as human beings, separate
from the earth. There's an intertwining of humankind, human life and
human activity with all of creation, and we have an obligation before
God, if you want to talk in religious terms, to care for it."
Bishop Malone said Pope Francis took his papal name because of his love
for St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment and
animals, who devoted his life to be able to "embrace all that is
vulnerable," which is why Franciscan fathers, brothers and sisters of
the diocese have kept this theme alive.
"This is an exciting and happy time to hear the good news of Pope
Francis' encyclical," Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, chair of the
Diocesan Care for Creation Committee, added at the press conference. "It
is 'praise be to you, O Lord,' and it does come from St. Francis'
Canticle, which is a wonderful prayer where he calls everything in
creation 'brother' and 'sister.' I think this whole encyclical is saying
to us: we need to be brother and sister to each other. The sisters and
friars behind me, but also all congregations of religious men and women,
have really taken up the call to do something for creation."
In the encyclical, Pope Francis warned of the severe consequences of
unchecked human exploitation of the environment and resources,
lamenting, "(Our Sister, Mother Earth) 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. We have come to see ourselves
as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will."
"In the meantime, economic powers continue to justify the current global
system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit
of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let
alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment," Pope
Francis wrote. "Here we see how environmental deterioration and human
and ethical degradation are closely linked."
The pope associated social inequality with disregard for the
environment, since the poorest populations are most likely to be hit
hardest and first by the loss of natural resources, such as water, fish
and other wildlife, food and shelter. However, Pope Francis reiterated
merely reducing the overall number of humans on the planet would not
help, since a minority of the population is causing the majority of the
"To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism
on the part of some is one way of refusing to face the issues," the
pope continued. "It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of
distribution, where a minority believes it has the right to consume in a
way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even
contain the waste products of such consumption."
Ultimately, Pope Francis recommended reduced reliance on fossil fuels
and praised the work of various environmental agencies in bringing
climate change and other environmental issues to the forefront of
debates and increasing public awareness about them. He supported
attempts by people to make environmentally friendly choices and reject
the rampant consumerism that leads to such serious problems.
He also encouraged everyone to reduce their consumption of plastic and
paper, use less water, separate garbage, cook only what they can
reasonably eat, respect and care for animals, use buses or other public
transportation when possible, and turn lights off when not in use. He
praised such lifestyle changes as using less heat and wearing warmer
clothing, even if one could afford to use more energy.
According to Bishop Malone, the encyclical will likely spark a great
deal of scientific debate and other discussion, since "there is a lot of
science in the encyclical" and "the pope has access to some of the best
scientific minds in the world." Pope Francis also makes the point that
he wants to encourage dialogue to keep the human race from acting in
ways that continue to damage the environment.
Prior to the encyclical's release, members of the Care for Creation
Committee, along with other groups concerned about its content, met at
St. Joseph University Church in Buffalo to plan activities and work to
promote environmentalism. The Care for Creation Committee has held
workshops on climate change, created a curriculum for Catholic schools
to include lessons on caring for creation in their religion and science
classes, published bulletin announcements and met specifically to
discuss the encyclical. The group has worked with Catholics, other
Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others interested in the issue.
"A lot of people don't realize this: the earth is really in crisis,"
added Sister Eileen O'Connor, RSM, a member of the diocesan committee,
last month. "The pope said, in the encyclical, this is not necessarily
about technology or even science. This is our moral responsibility. It's
a faith responsibility, particularly as it affects the poorest among
us, especially in developing countries and island countries."
"The pope is really calling us to be with one another as Francis was
with one another," Sister Sharon said. "Oftentimes, when we're talking
about the environment and the things that are happening in the
environment, we tend to be 'them against us.' He's saying we need a
better conversation than that. We need a conversation where we really
respect one another."