Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment

by Pope Francis with a preface by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



When my granddaughter, Maeve, and I go for a walk, we take a garbage bag and gloves in order to pick up anything that is polluting the earth. She is six and takes seriously her responsibility to Mother Earth and what our Pope says. This is refreshing and inspiring to me. If she sees someone drop garbage on ‘her earth’ she tells them that they could use her garbage bag. She wants to make it a good place for everyone to live.

Our Pope and the Patriarch believe this to be true also. Of course their book shows their sophistication of thought. The Pope states: “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.” The Patriarch speaks similarly when he states: “When in a gesture of spontaneous ecumenical solidarity, we decided to attend the inauguration Mass of Pope Francis in March 2013, we could not have imagined the infinite dimensions of faithful ministry to the principles and precepts of the Gospel that would emerge as the result of our fraternity and friendship. Of course, we were deeply convinced of the significance and sacredness of our efforts at dialogue in love and truth in order to restore our unity and communion as disciples of the Lord, who prayed that we might be one (John 17:21), and we were passionately engaged in it.”

In recent years much has happened without the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. There is a close link between ecumenical dialogue and care for the environment. We have come to realize that, alongside the ecumenism of dialogue between the various Christian denominations and the ecumenism of martyrdom shared by the victims of religious discrimination and violence, there is also an ecumenism of the environment in the face of global climate change that brings with it far reaching implications and consequences for our entire planet and its inhabitants. The Patriarch states: “As servants of the God of love, we consider that one of our fundamental obligations and moral duties is to respond to global suffering and bequeath to future generations a sustainable world, as created and willed by our loving Creator.”

The Pope writes about the significance of workers, new lifestyles, life-giving water and faith, inclusion and sustainable development. I like the attention to the Eucharist near the end of the book when the Pope states: “We offer everything, and while we offer we implore the Father to send the Holy Spirit to unite our poverty to the offering of Christ, his Son, who came so that each one of us, in him, may become a child of the Father. In this way our bread and wine become Christ, the gift par excellence of the Father, our true brother in whom we are all brothers and sisters at last and discover ourselves as such….just as in the Eucharist bread and wine become Christ because they are bathed by the Spirit, so the whole of creation (people, things, animals, plants, time and space) becomes a personal word of God when it is used for love, for the good of others, especially those who have need of it.” Living this book is certainly living a life with the challenge of taking care of the environment and all that means. It is again, thoughtful and holy as our Pope is.

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