Pope says developed countries must repent of misusing the earth

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)Pope Francis arrives at the altar with a white rose to lead the audience for workers and volunteers of mercy at the Vatican, September 3, 2016.

ROME (Christian Examiner) – Pope Francis is calling on Christians to unite "in showing mercy to the earth" and asking developed countries to "atone" for overuse of the world's ecological resources.

In an address to the church Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the pontiff said people should turn to "acknowledge our sins against creation, the poor and future generations."

"As individuals, we have grown comfortable with certain lifestyles shaped by a distorted culture of prosperity and a 'disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary,' Pope Francis said, quoting from his encyclical Laudato Si.

During this Jubilee Year, let us learn to implore God's mercy for those sins against creation that we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed. Let us likewise commit ourselves to taking concrete steps towards ecological conversion, which requires a clear recognition of our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation and the Creator
- Pope Francis

"After a serious examination of conscience and moved by sincere repentance, we can confess our sins against the Creator, against creation, and against our brothers and sisters."

Laudato Si has been criticized by many in conservative quarters as subtly Marxist in its political and economic overtones. The pope has on many occasions rejected the claim, though his recent speech again advocates for the redistribution of wealth and resources.

"Economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains. Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation," he said.

"One concrete case is the 'ecological debt' between the global north and south," Pope Francis added. "Repaying it would require treating the environments of poorer nations with care and providing the financial resources and technical assistance needed to help them deal with climate change and promote sustainable development."

Francis said humans have left God's creation a "polluted wasteland" and were responsible for the loss of "biodiversity" on the planet. He also lamented global warming.

"Global warming continues, due in part to human activity: 2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world's poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact," he said.

That 2015 was the warmest year on record, however, is not true, according to multiple scientific sources. The pope also does not address species survival programs, largely funded by western countries, reforestation projects that have increased the number of trees in many countries, and large scale cleanup projects, also funded by western corporations.

Despite of those efforts, Pope Francis said creation is still not being handled in a "balanced and respectful way" – the way God intended for humanity "to till and to keep" the earth (Genesis 2:15).

"To till too much, to keep too little, is to sin," Francis said. "During this Jubilee Year, let us learn to implore God's mercy for those sins against creation that we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed. Let us likewise commit ourselves to taking concrete steps towards ecological conversion, which requires a clear recognition of our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation and the Creator."