On Wednesday the 12th of July, Pope Francis sent a message to an international congress on Care for our Common Home in Rio de Janeiro. The context was large cities and our responsibilities in making them more than an unchecked and polluted sprawl. As such, that our obligations for caring for the environment ultimately means having responsibility to our fellow citizens.
Below is Pope Francis’ Message to the Participants in the International Congress “Laudato Si’ and Great Cities,” Rio de Janeiro 2017:
I greet you attentively, as well as all those taking part in the event: “Laudato Si’ and Great Cities” International Congress. In the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ I make reference to various physical needs that the man of today has in great cities, and which must be addressed with respect, responsibility and relation. They are three “Rs,” which help to interact jointly in face of the most essential imperatives of our coexistence.
Respect is the fundamental attitude that man must have towards creation. We have received the latter as a precious gift and we must make an effort, so that the future generations can continue to admire and enjoy it. We must teach and transmit this care. In his Canticle to Creatures, Saint Francis of Assisi affirmed: “Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, which is very useful and humble, precious and chaste.” Expressed in these adjectives is the beauty and importance of this element, which is indispensable for life. Like other created elements, potable and clean water is an expression of the attentive and provident love of God for each one of His creatures, it being a fundamental right that every society must guarantee (Cf. Laudato Si’, 30). When it is not given the care it deserves, it becomes a source of sicknesses and its lack endangers the life of millions of people. It is everyone’s duty to create in society a conscience of respect for our surroundings; this benefits us as well as future generations.
Responsibility vis-a-vis creation is the way with which we must interact with it and it is one of our primordial tasks. We cannot stay with our arms crossed, when we perceive a grave diminution in the quality of the air or the increase of the production of residues that are not appropriately treated. These realities are the consequence of an irresponsible way of manipulating creation and they call us to exercise active responsibility for the good of all. Moreover, we see indifference to our common home and, lamentably, to the many tragedies and needs that scourge our brothers and sisters. This passivity demonstrates the “loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellowmen on which every civil society is founded” (Laudato Si’, 25). Each territory and government should encourage responsible ways of acting in its citizens so that, with inventiveness, they can interact and foster the creation of a more habitable and healthy home. By each one putting the little that corresponds to him in his responsibility, much will be achieved.
Observed in great cities, as well as in rural areas, is a growing lack of relation. Regardless of the cause that produces it, the constant flow of people generates a more plural, multi-cultural society, which is a good, it produces wealth and social and personal growth, but it also makes this society ever more closed and mistrustful. The lack of roots and isolation of some persons are forms of poverty, which can degenerate into ghettos and cause violence and injustice. Instead, man is called to love and to be loved, establishing bonds of belonging and ties of unity among all his fellowmen. It is important that the society work jointly in the political, educational and religious realm, to create warmer human relations, which break the walls that isolate and marginalize. This can be achieved through groups, schools, parishes, etc., which, with their presence, are capable if building a network of communion and belonging. In this way, “any place ceases to be a hell and becomes the context of a fitting life” (Laudato Si’, 149).
I entrust these days of study and reflection to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, Queen of Heaven and Earth. May her counsel and guidance direct your decisions in favour of an integral ecology that protects our common and supportive home.
Please, I ask you to pray for me, and I pray to the Lord to bless you.
Vatican, June 12, 2017