by Martin van Nierop

There is an air of anticipation in the environment. It’s getting lighter earlier, there are green buds and shoots everywhere, and the days are definitely warmer. The climate is mellow. Spring is here!

Spring day, celebrated in South Africa on 1 September, has also been declared the ‘World day of prayer for Creation’. This year, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew issued a joint statement to mark the occasion.

A full version of the statement can be downloaded from the Vatican website. Some highlights in the statement are:

  1. That care of the environment can only be successful if we take care of our social issues at the same time: ‘The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development’.
  2. Our greed and materialism is harming both humanity and the environment: ‘We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs’.
  3. That the poor and marginalised bear the brunt of environmental degradation and climate change: ‘The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people’.

The statement echoes many of the themes Pope Francis wrote about in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’. Patriarch Bartholomew has been speaking about the importance of the environment for some time (for details click here). Pope Francis quotes from the Patriarch’s messages in his encyclical.

The two leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches invite us to pray for our home:

Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on 1 September. On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations.

So this spring time, as we enjoy the green shoots, the warmth of the air, and the longer days, let us remember that we also have a responsibility towards both the environment and those less fortunate than ourselves.