By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 September, 2018
In his message for the 4th Annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis has warned that the planet’s seas and oceans risk becoming “littered by endless fields of floating plastic”.
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is marked by the Catholic Church in union with the Orthodox and other Churches and Christian communities. This year, Pope Francis highlighted the question of water in his message.
Describing the threat to the planet’s seas and oceans as an “emergency” he said, “We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us.”
He also prayed for the younger generation that they may grow in respect for our common home and in the desire to care for the essential good of water for the benefit of all.
“It is my prayerful hope that Christian communities may contribute more and more concretely helping everyone to enjoy this indispensable resource, in respectful care for the gifts received from the Creator, and in particular rivers, seas and oceans,” the Pope said.
“It is a very simple and precious element, yet access to it is, sadly, for many people difficult if not impossible.”
The Pope stressed that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights”.
He added, “Our world owes a great social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”
In his message, the Pontiff also expressed thanks for “the gift of our common home and for all those men and women of good will committed to protecting it”.
He paid tribute to the many projects aimed at promoting the study and the safeguarding of ecosystems, and for the efforts being made to develop more sustainable agriculture and more responsible nutrition, as well as for the various educational, spiritual and liturgical initiatives that involve Christians throughout the world in the care of creation.
“It must be acknowledged that we have not succeeded in responsibly protecting creation. The environmental situation, both on the global level and in many specific places, cannot be considered satisfactory,” he warned.
“Rightly, there is a growing sense of the need for a renewed and sound relationship between humanity and creation, and the conviction that only an authentic and integral vision of humanity will permit us to take better care of our planet for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Water, he said, invites people to reflect on their origins, as the human body is mostly composed of water, and many civilisations throughout history arose near great rivers that marked their identity.
“In an evocative image, the beginning of the book of Genesis states that, in the beginning, the spirit of the Creator ‘swept over the face of the waters’ (1:2).”
Elsewhere in his message, the Pope said that for Christians, water represents an essential element of purification and of life.
“We think immediately of baptism, the sacrament of our rebirth. Water made holy by the Spirit is the matter by which God has given us life and renewed us; it is the blessed source of undying life. For Christians of different confessions, baptism also represents the real and irreplaceable point of departure for experiencing an ever more authentic fraternity on the way to full unity.”
On the issue of the seas and oceans, he said “It is our duty to thank the Creator for the impressive and marvelous gift of the great waters and all that they contain, and to praise him for covering the earth with the oceans. To ponder the immense open seas and their incessant movement can also represent an opportunity to turn our thoughts to God, who constantly accompanies his creation, guiding its course and sustaining its existence.
“Constant care for this inestimable treasure represents today an ineluctable duty and a genuine challenge. There is need for an effective cooperation between men and women of good will in assisting the ongoing work of the Creator. Sadly, all too many efforts fail due to the lack of effective regulation and means of control, particularly with regard to the protection of marine areas beyond national confines.”
He also prayed for those who devote themselves to the apostolate of the sea, for those who help reflect on the issues involving maritime ecosystems, for those who contribute to the development and application of international regulations on the seas in order to safeguard individuals, countries, goods, natural resources – such as marine fauna and flora, and coral reefs or seabeds – and to guarantee an integral development in view of the common good of the entire human family and not particular interests.
“Let us remember, too, all those who work to protect maritime areas and to safeguard the oceans and their biodiversity, that they may carry out this task with responsibility and integrity.”
Christians around the world are celebrating the Season of Creation from 1 September (World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation) to 4 October (the Feast of St Francis of Assisi).
The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington has produced a resource to enrich the journey through the five weeks of the Season of Creation.
Each week users will ‘travel’ to a different country to learn about how climate change is impacting the vulnerable communities living there.
After you read the story for the week, the Columbans provide three activities: one to learn, one to pray, and one to act. Sign in and then download free at: www.votervoice.net/ColumbanCntr/Events/909/Register