CatholicNews ■ Sundays June 6 and June 13, 2004


“God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples”. WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

“All creatures wild and tame, O bless the Lord Every plant that grows, O bless the Lord Seas and rivers, O bless the Lord Let the earth bless the Lord To him be glory and praise forever”
From the Canticle of Daniel

JUNE 5 is World Environment Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness of ecological issues. In this special report to mark the day, CN looks at church teachings on ecology, some of the environmenal problems, how some Singapore Catholics are caring for and nurturing the earth and how each of us can and must make a difference. Pope John Paul has said that even men and women without any particular religious conviction, but with an acute sense of their responsibilities for the common good, recognize their obligation to contribute to the restoration of a healthy environment. All the more should men and women who believe in God the Creator, and who are thus convinced that there is a welldefined unity and order in the world, feel called to address the problem. Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith. ■


POPE John Paul II walks through a wooded area in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy. The pontiff has a great love for nature.

ONE of nature’s beauties – a blue pansy butterfly – rests on a twig. Photo by Khew Sin Khoon

“And God saw that it was good”
In the Book of Genesis, where we find God’s first self-revelation to humanity (Gen 1-3), there is a recurring refrain: “And God saw that it was good”. God entrusted the whole of creation to the man and woman, and only then could he rest “from all his work” (Gen 2:3). Made in the image and likeness of God, Adam and Eve were to have exercised their dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28) with wisdom and love. Instead, they destroyed the existing harmony by deliberately going against the Creator’s plan. Christians believe that the Death and Resurrection of Christ accomplished the work of reconciling humanity to the Father, who “was pleased ... through (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:19-20). Creation was thus made new (cf. Rev 21:5). These biblical considerations help us to understand better the relationship between human activity and the whole of creation. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace: “Therefore the land mourns and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and even the fish of the sea are taken away” (Hos 4:3). ■ CNS

“Our contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.” – Pope John Paul II

Environment important issue for Christianity
By Tracy Early
NEW YORK – Concern for the

environment is “not just one more issue in a string of good causes” for Christians but a basic part of their belief, a professor at Fordham University told a symposium on “The Abrahamic Religions and the Environmental Crisis.” Speaking May 11 at the Interfaith Center of New York, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson said “simple earthy things” such as bread and wine could become sacramental bearers of grace because the world with all its creatures “is the primordial sacrament.” The earth is “charged with the grandeur of God,” she said, quoting the English Jesuit poet Father Gerard Manley Hopkins. “Seen in this light, the goodness, beauty and holiness

of creation that attracts our ecological care then becomes an intrinsic part of Christian belief, not something added on,” she said. The event was sponsored by the Harvard Forum on Religion and Ecology, a programme led by a Catholic couple, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, who teach at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. They organized the symposium to spotlight the Jewish, Christian and Islamic volumes in a series of books produced after the couple initiated the convening of 10 conferences between 1996 and 1998 on the relation of ecology to 10 of the world’s religious traditions. Sister Johnson, a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said the volume on “Christianity and Ecology” showed in a

scholarly way how ecology was connected with “the heart of what people really believe, with the way they actually pray and practice their religion.” According to the doctrine of creation, God calls the created heavens and earth good, and the divine Spirit continues to dwell “within the world, enlivening it,” she said. “God is at home here, as are we.” In reference to the doctrine of incarnation, Sister Johnson said God was “no longer satisfied to be with us in word and Spirit only, but becomes one of us in the flesh.” The ministry of Jesus includes “feeding hungry bodies and laying on hands to heal,” as well as teaching “salted with references to the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, sunsets, storms, lost sheep and mother hens,” she said. Sister Johnson said that while

Christians tended to focus on the cross as the means for their salvation from sin the biblical vision was greater and saw it as “the great act of redemption not just for humanity but for the whole cosmos.” Turning to the resurrection of Christ, she said it was a “pledge of the same future for the whole world.” The future will be “what has already happened to him” but “on a cosmic scale,” she said. Sister Johnson also said the Christian doctrine of eschatology included the teaching that “Earth will be renewed,” and that the Creator spirit was “coming to reconcile and redeem the whole creation.” The ethical implication broadens from love of neighbour, she said, “to include the whole community of life and the ecosystems that make life possible on the planet.” ■ CNS

THERE is an order in the universe which must be respected, and we have a grave responsibility to preserve this order for the wellbeing of future generations, said Pope John Paul II. Although the pope made that statement in 1990, it is just as true today. Speaking at a time of concern over depletion of the ozone layer and greenhouse effect, of wasteful consumption by some and destructive ecological practices arising from greed or desperate need, he stressed that the ecological crisis is a moral issue. “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations,” he said. “The concepts of an ordered universe and a common heritage both point to the necessity of a more internationally coordinated approach to the management of the earth’s goods”, the alleviation of poverty and changes in consumption patterns. The pope’s full message titled “Peace with God the Creator, peace with all of creation” can be downloaded at ■

“We can never throw anything “away” because there is no such place as “away.” There is only one universe – home to us all. This realization could be the underlying principle for conservation, the wise use and reuse of man-made things and the potential harm of excessive productivity and accumulation.”
– Aline D. Wolf, author of Nuturing the Spirit