Saturday, December 31, 2016

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Lenten Studies. Notes for Session 5

St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington

LENTEN STUDIES

Caring for our Common Home

Notes for Session 5

These notes are based on chapter 6 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Ecological Education and Spirituality.

"Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.  We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.  This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life.  A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal."

1.  Towards a new lifestyle.

"Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals...When people become self-centred and self-enclosed, their greed increases.  The emptier a person's heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own and consume.  It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality... our common concern cannot be limited to the threat of extreme weather events...  Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and destruction."

"A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power...  When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently.  This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers."

"Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment."

2.  Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment.

"Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning.  It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care."

"Good education plants seeds when we are young, and these continue to bear fruit throughout our life...  In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say 'thank you' as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggression and greed, and to ask for forgiveness when we have caused harm.  These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings."

"All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education.  It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God's world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment."

"Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature.  Otherwise the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market."

3.  Ecological conversion.

"Here I would like to offer Christians a few suggestions for an ecological spirituality grounded in the convictions of our faith... such a spirituality can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of the world."

"... the ecological crisis is a summons to a profound interior conversion.  It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment.  Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent...  Living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue: it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience."

"Nevertheless, self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation facing the world today...  The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion."

"This conversion calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness.  First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God's loving gift...  It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion...  I ask all Christians to recognise and to live fully this dimension of their conversion."

4.  Joy and peace.

"Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption...  [It] proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little."

"Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating.  It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity.  On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full...  Sobriety and humility were not favourably regarded in the last century, and yet, when there is a general breakdown in the exercise of a certain virtue in personal and social life, it ends up causing a number of imbalances, including environmental ones."

"One expression of the [right] attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals.  I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom.  This moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need."

5.  Civic and political love.

"Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together in communion.  Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and this makes us brothers and sisters.  Fraternal love can only be gratuitous: it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us."

"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world and that being good and decent is worth it.  We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty.  It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good."

"Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world...  In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a 'culture of care' which permeates all society."

"Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life.  Society is also enriched by a countless array of organisations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban...  These actions cultivate a shared identity, with a story that can be remembered and handed on.  In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us.  These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences."

6.  Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest.

"The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.  Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, or in a poor person's face.  The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things...  This is not because the finite things of the world are really divine, but because the mystic experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings, and thus feels that 'all things are God'."

"The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life.  Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane.  Water, oil, fire and colours are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise."

""For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation."

"It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation...  The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter.  He comes not from above, but from within."

"Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God,,,  The Eucharist joins heaven and earth: it embraces and penetrates all creation...  Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing, us to be stewards of all creation."

"On Sundays our participation in the Eucharist has special importance.  Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the world.  Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the 'first day' of the new creation, whose fresh fruits are the Lord's risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality.  It also proclaims '[humanity's] eternal rest in God'.  In this way, Christian spirituality incorporates the value of relaxation and festivity...  It protects human action from becoming empty activism: it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which makes us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else."

7.  The Trinity and the relationship between creatures.

"For all Christians, believing in one God who is Trinitarian communion suggests that the Trinity has left its mark on all creation... the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships."

"The human person grows more, matures more, and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others, and with all creatures...  Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity."

 

 

8.  Queen of all creation.

"Mary, the mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned for the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the suffering of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power."

9.  Beyond the sun.

"At the end we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God...and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us will share in unending plenitude.  Even now we are journeying towards the Sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven...  In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast."

"God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and strength needed to continue on our way.  In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present.  He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.  Praise be to him!"

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lenten Studies: Session 4

St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington

LENTEN STUDIES

Caring for our Common Home

Notes for Session 4

These notes are based on chapter 5 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Lines of Approach and Action.

"[In this chapter] we shall try to outline the major paths of dialogue which can help us escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us."

1.  Dialogue on the environment in the international community.

"An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.  Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan...  Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water."

"Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world.  Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities."

"...recent world summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environments.  The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is worth mentioning.  It proclaimed that 'human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development'.  Echoing the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, it enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth...  [but]...  The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation."

"International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good...  Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility."

"Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalisation of environmental costs...[but]... there is a need for common and differential responsibilities."

"The strategy of buying and selling 'carbon credits' can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help to reduce the emissions of polluting gases worldwide."

"For poor countries, the priority must be to eliminate extreme poverty and promote the social development of their people.  At the same time, they need to acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and to combat corruption more effectively.  They are likewise bound to develop less polluting forms of energy production, but to do so they require the help of the countries which have experienced great growth at the cost of the ongoing pollution of the planet."

"Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed...  Relations between States must be respectful of each other's sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone."

"The growing problem of marine waste and the protection of the open seas present particular challenges,  What is needed, in effect, is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called 'global commons'."

"The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty."

2.  Dialogue for new national and local policies.

"Questions related to the environment and economic development can no longer be approached only from the standpoint of differences between countries: they also call for greater attention to policies on the national and local levels,"

"A politics concerned with immediate results supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth.  In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment."

"[Cooperatives] are able to instil a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.  They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren."

"Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment...  On the national and local levels much still needs to be done, such as ways of conserving energy...  New forms of co-operation and community organisation can be encouraged in order to defend the interests of small producers and preserve local ecosystems from destruction."

"...continuity is essential because policies related to climate change cannot be altered with every change of government...  A healthy politics is sorely needed, capable of reforming and co-ordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia...even the best mechanisms can break down when there are no worthy goals and values, or a genuine humanism to serve as the basis of a noble and generous society."

3.  Dialogue and transparency in decision-making.

"An assessment of the environmental impact of business ventures and projects demands transparent political processes involving a free exchange of views...  It should be linked to a study of working conditions and possible effects on people's physical and mental health, on the local economy and on public safety...  The local population should have a special place at the table; they are concerned about their own future and that of their children, and can consider goals transcending immediate economic interests...  This is especially the case when a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emission or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public spaces."

"The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that 'where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures', which prevent environmental degradation.  This precautionary principle makes it possible to protect those who are most vulnerable and whose ability to defend their interests and to assemble incontrovertible evidence is limited."

"There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus.  Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.  But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good."

4.  Politics and economics in dialogue for human fulfilment.

"Today in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life.  Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only re-affirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery."

"Once more we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.  Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximising profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?"

"Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development.  But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development."

"...we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late.  We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity."

"Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.  A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress."

"What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and inter-disciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.  Often, politics itself is responsible for the disrepute in which it is held, on account of corruption and the failure to enact sound public policies."

"A strategy for real change calls for re-thinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlines present-day culture.  A healthy politics needs to be able to take up this challenge."

5.  Religions in dialogue with science.

"Any technical solution which science claims to offer will be powerless to solve the serious problems of our world if humanity loses its compass, if we lose sight of the great motivations which make it possible for us to live in harmony, to make sacrifices, and to treat others well."

"Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions.  They need to be encouraged to be open to God's grace and to draw constantly from their deepest convictions about love, justice and peace...  The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers.  This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity."

"An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered.  The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in minds that 'realities are greater than ideas'."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Notes for Session 3


St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington

LENTEN STUDIES

Caring for our Common Home

Notes for Session 3

These notes are based on chapter 4 of the encyclical Laudato Si', Integral Ecology.

"Since everything is closely interrelated, and today's problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions."

1.  Environmental, economic and social ecology.

"...fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality."

"Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.  We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it...  We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis in which both social and environmental strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."

"Economic growth, for its part, tends to produce predictable reactions and a certain standardisation with the aim of simplifying procedures and reducing costs.  This suggests the need for an 'economic ecology' capable of appealing to a broader vision of reality.  The protection of the environment is in fact an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it."

2.  Cultural ecology.

"Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat.  This patrimony is part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city.  It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in.  Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, preserving its original identity."

"A consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today's globalised economy, has a levelling effect on cultures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity.  Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical inventions can lead to overlooking the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community."

"Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the local structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community.  The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal.  The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems."

"It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions...  For them land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.  When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best."

3.  Ecology of daily life.

"The extreme poverty experienced in areas lacking harmony, open spaces or potential for integration, can lead to incidents of brutality and to exploitation of criminal organisations.  In the unstable neighbourhoods of mega-cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns anti-social behaviour and violence.  Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful.  Many people in these conditions are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome.  This experience of a communitarian salvation often generates ideas for the improvement of a building or a neighbourhood."

"There is also a need to protect those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of feeling 'at home' within a city which includes us and brings us together....  Others will then no longer be seen as stranger but as part of the 'we' which all of us are working to create.  For this same reason, in both rural and urban settings, it is helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention."

"Lack of housing is a grave problem in many parts of the world...  Not only the poor, but many other members of society as well, find it difficult to own a home.  Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families."

"The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them.  Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities or non-renewable energy."

"Respect for our dignity as human being often jars with the chaotic realities that people have to endure in city life.  Yet this should not make us overlook the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life."

"Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment."

"The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.

4.  The principle of the common good.

"The common good is the sum of those conditions of social life which allows social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment."

"...the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues.  Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good."

5.  Justice between generations.

"The notion of the common good also extends to future generations.  The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us.  We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity."

"What kind of world do we want to leave those who come after us... its general direction, its meaning and its values?  ...  What is the purpose of our life in this world?  Why are we here?  What is the goal of our work and all our efforts?  What need does the earth have of us?"

"Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.  We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth."

"Men and women of our post-modern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today's self-centred culture of instant gratification."

"...our inability to think seriously about future generations is linked to our inability to broaden the scope of our present interests and to give consideration to those who remain excluded from development.  Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today's poor, whose life on earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Notes for Session One

St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington

LENTEN STUDIES 2016

Caring for our Common Home

Notes for Session 1

These notes are based on chapter 2 of the encyclical Laudato Si', The Gospel of Creation.

Although the {Pope has addressed the encyclical to "all people of goodwill", he is clear that Christians have a special responsibility for the care of our common home, and a special contribution to make to the debate and action required.  He writes: "...science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both."

1.  The Light Offered by Faith.

"If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of science and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it."

"It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognise the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions."

2.  The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts.

"In the first creation account in the Book of Genesis, God's plan includes creating humanity... every man and woman is created out of love and made in God's image and likeness."

 "The creation accounts in the Book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality.  They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbours and with the earth itself...  The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations."

"We are not God.  The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.  This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants [humanity] 'dominion' over the earth, has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting [us] as domineering and destructive by nature.  This is not the correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church."

"The biblical texts...tell us to 'till and keep' the garden of the world.  'Tilling' refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while 'keeping' means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving."

There are many texts asserting that the earth is owned by God.  The Pope cites Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 10:14, and Leviticus 25:23 as examples.  Similarly, many texts show the divine concern for other creatures besides humanity, such as Psalm 148:5-6, Deuteronomy 22:4, and Exodus 23:12.

The Pope writes: "The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism.  Each creature possess its own goodness and perfection...  Each of the various creatures, willed into its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.  [Humanity] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature to avoid any disordered use of things.

After recalling the story of Cain and Abel, the Pope writes: Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth."

"These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others."

"A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable.  That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot."

3.  The Mystery of the Universe.

"In the Judaeo-Christian tradition 'creation' has a broader meaning than 'nature', for it has to do with God's loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance.  Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together in universal communion."

"...Judaeo-Christian thought demythologised nature.  While continuing to admire its grandeur and immensity, it no longer saw nature as divine.  In doing so, it emphasises all the more out human responsibility for nature.  This re=discovery of nature can never be at gthe cost of the freedom and responsibility of human beings who, as part of the world, have the duty to cultivate their abilities in order to protect it and develop its potential.  If we acknowledge the value and fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress.  A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our powers."

"...it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination.  When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society...  The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us.  Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.  Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator."

4.  The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation.

"The universe as a whole, in all its manifold relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches of God... we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships."

The Pope again quotes from the Catechism:

God will the interdependence of creatures.  The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tell us that no creature is self-sufficient.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other."

5.  A Universal Communion.

"...as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect."

"This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails.  Nor does it imply a divinisation of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting its fragility."

"...we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly.  But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others.  We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste, which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet."

"A deep sense of communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack temderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.  It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted."

6.  The Common Destination of Goods.

"Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.  For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.  Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged."

"The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use,, is a golden rule of social conduct...  The Christian tradition has never recognised the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property."

"The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone.  If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all.  If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others.  That is why the New Zealand bishops ask what the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' means when 'twenty percent of the world's population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive."

7.  The Gaze of Jesus.

"In the Christian understanding of the world the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ...  From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy."

"...the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One in mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end.  The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence."