Source: Vatican News
'You will declare the fiftieth year holy and you will proclaim the liberation in the earth for all its inhabitants. It will be a jubilee for you' (Lv 25,10)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Every year, particularly since the publication of the Encyclical Letter Laudato si ' ( LS , 24 May 2015), the first day of September marks the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation for the Christian family, with which the Time of Creation begins, which ends on 4 October, in memory of St Francis of Assisi. In this period, Christians throughout the world renew their faith in God the Creator and unite in a special way in prayer and action for the safeguard of the common home.
I am pleased that the theme chosen by the ecumenical family for the celebration of the Time of Creation 2020 is "Jubilee for the Earth", precisely in the year in which the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day occurs.
In Sacred Scripture, the Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, repair and rejoice.
1. A time to remember
We are invited to remember above all that the ultimate destiny of creation is to enter into God's eternal Sabbath. It is a journey that takes place in time, embracing the rhythm of the seven days of the week, the cycle of seven years and the great Jubilee Year that comes to the end of seven sabbatical years.
The Jubilee is also a time of grace to commemorate the original vocation of creation to be and prosper as a community of love. We exist only through relationships: with God the creator, with brothers and sisters as members of a common family, and with all creatures who inhabit our own home. "Everything is related, and all of us human beings are united as brothers and sisters in a wonderful pilgrimage, linked by the love that God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us among us, with tender affection, to our brother sun, to sister moon, to brother river and to mother earth "( LS , 92).
The Jubilee, therefore, is a time for remembrance, where to keep the memory of our inter-relational existence. We constantly need to remember that "everything is related, and that the authentic care of our own life and of our relations with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and fidelity to others" ( LS , 70).
2. A time to return
The Jubilee is a time to go back and repent. We have broken the bonds that united us to the Creator, to other human beings and to the rest of creation. We need to heal these damaged relationships, which are essential to sustain ourselves and the entire fabric of life.
The Jubilee is a time of return to God, our loving creator. One cannot live in harmony with creation without being at peace with the Creator, the source and origin of all things. As Pope Benedict observed, "the brutal consumption of creation begins where there is no God, where matter is now only material for us, where we ourselves are the last instances, where the whole is simply our property" ( Encounter with the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008).
The Jubilee invites us to think again of others, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. We are called to welcome once again God's original and loving plan for creation as a common inheritance, a banquet to be shared with all brothers and sisters in a spirit of conviviality; not in a broken competition, but in a joyful communion, where one supports and protects one another. The Jubilee is a time to give freedom to the oppressed and all those who are chained in the shackles of various forms of modern slavery, including human trafficking and child labour.
We also need to return to listen to the earth, indicated in Scripture as adamah, the place from which man, Adam, was taken. Today the voice of creation urges us, alarmed, to return to the right place in the natural order, to remember that we are part, not masters, of the interconnected web of life. The disintegration of biodiversity, the dizzying increase in climate disasters, the unequal impact of the pandemic underway on the poorest and most fragile are alarm bells in the face of the unbridled greed of consumption.
Particularly during this Time of Creation, we listen to the heartbeat of creation. Indeed, it was given birth to manifest and communicate the glory of God, to help us find the Lord of all things in his beauty and return to him (cf. St. Bonaventure, In II Sent ., I, 2,2 , q. 1, concluded; Brevil. , II, 5.11). The land from which we were drawn is therefore a place of prayer and meditation: "let us awaken the aesthetic and contemplative sense that God has placed in us" (Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, 56). The ability to marvel and contemplate is something we can learn especially from indigenous brothers and sisters, who live in harmony with the earth and its many forms of life.
3. A time to rest
In his wisdom, God reserved the Sabbath day so that the earth and its inhabitants could rest and be refreshed. Today, however, our lifestyles push the planet beyond its limits. The continuous demand for growth and the incessant cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the environment. Forests dissolve, soil is eroded, fields disappear, deserts advance, seas turn sour and storms intensify: creation groans!
During the Jubilee, the People of God were invited to rest from their usual work, to allow the earth to regenerate and the world to rearrange itself, thanks to the decline in habitual consumption. Today we need to find equitable and sustainable styles of life, which give the Earth the rest it deserves, sufficient livelihoods for all, without destroying the ecosystems that maintain us.
The current pandemic has somehow led us to rediscover simpler and more sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us the opportunity to develop new ways of living. It was possible to see how the Earth is able to recover if we allow it to rest: the air has become cleaner, the waters more transparent, animal species have returned to many places from which they had disappeared. The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must take advantage of this decisive moment to put an end to superfluous and destructive activities and purposes, and to cultivate generative values, bonds and projects. We need to examine our habits of energy use, consumption, transport and nutrition. We need to remove non-essential and harmful aspects from our economies, and create fruitful ways of trading,
4. A time to mend
The Jubilee is a time to repair the original harmony of creation and to heal compromised human relationships.
It invites us to re-establish equitable social relations, restoring each one's freedom and property, and forgiving the debts of others. We should therefore not forget the history of exploitation of the South of the planet, which has caused an enormous ecological debt, mainly due to the plundering of resources and the excessive use of the common environmental space for waste disposal. It is the time for restorative justice. In this regard, I renew my appeal to cancel the debt of the most fragile countries in light of the serious impacts of the health, social and economic crises they face following Covid-19. It also needs to be ensured that the incentives for recovery, being developed and implemented at global, regional and national levels, are effective.
It is also necessary to repair the earth. Restoring a climatic balance is of utmost importance, as we are in the midst of an emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people remind us. Everything possible must be done to limit the growth of the global average temperature below the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement on Climate: going further will prove catastrophic, especially for the poorest communities around the world. At this critical moment it is necessary to promote intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity. In preparation for the major Climate Summit in Glasgow, UK (COP 26), I urge each country to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions.
Restoring biodiversity is equally crucial in the context of an unprecedented disappearance of species and ecosystem degradation. It is necessary to support the UN call to safeguard 30% of the Earth as a protected habitat by 2030, in order to stem the alarming rate of biodiversity loss. I urge the international community to work together to ensure that the Biodiversity Summit (COP 15) in Kunming, China, is a turning point towards the re-establishment of the Earth as a home where life is abundant, according to the will of the Creator.
We are obliged to make good repairs in justice, ensuring that those who have inhabited a land for generations can fully regain its use. Indigenous communities must be protected from companies, particularly multinationals, which, through the deleterious extraction of fossil fuels, minerals, timber and agro-industrial products, "do in the least developed countries what they cannot do in the countries that bring them capital" ( LS , 51). This corporate misconduct represents a "new type of colonialism" (St. John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences , April 27, 2001, quoted in Querida Amazonia, 14), which shamefully exploits communities and poorer countries in the desperate search for economic development. It is necessary to consolidate national and international laws, so that they regulate the activities of mining companies and guarantee access to justice for those who are harmed.
5. A time to rejoice
In the biblical tradition, the Jubilee represents a joyful event, inaugurated by a trumpet sound that resounds throughout the earth. We know that the cry of the Earth and of the poor has become even louder in recent years. At the same time, we are witnesses of how the Holy Spirit is inspiring individuals and communities everywhere to come together to rebuild our common home and defend the most vulnerable. We are witnessing the gradual emergence of a great mobilization of people, who from below and from the peripheries are generously working for the protection of the earth and the poor. It gives joy to see so many young people and communities, especially indigenous ones, at the forefront of responding to the ecological crisis. They are calling for an Earth Jubilee and a new beginning, in the knowledge that "things can change" ( LS, 13).
It is also to be rejoiced to note that the special anniversary year of Laudato si' is inspiring numerous initiatives at a local and global level for the care of the common home and of the poor. This year should lead to long-term operational plans to achieve an integral ecology in families, parishes, dioceses, religious orders, schools, universities, health care, businesses, farms and in many other areas.
We also rejoice that believing communities are converging to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. It is a reason for particular joy that the Time of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. We continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of the same family!
Let us rejoice because, in his love, the Creator supports our humble efforts for the Earth. It is also the house of God, where his Word "became flesh and dwelt among us" ( Jn 1:14), the place that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit constantly renews.
"Send your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth" (cf. Ps 104,30).
Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, 1 September 2020
© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
We Need Your Support
ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.
Please support our journalism by donating today.Donate