DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, Oct. 7, 2014—Amid concerns raised by climate change and related issues affecting the environment, a high-ranking member of the Philippine clergy has reiterated the Church’s stand that “all of us as Catholic Christians are called to care for our earth”, stressing that “economic powers are not solely responsible for this”.
In his Pastoral Exhortation issued Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the “patron of ecologists”, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas said that while “God ordained that all creation be at the service of humanity”, enjoining Adam to have “dominion” over creation, this privilege should not be construed as “blanket permission for the wanton destruction of the environment”.
Citing Genesis 1: 26-31, which reads: “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good”, Villegas explained that the intrinsic goodness of the earth represents a “sacred trust for us to care for and use wisely the goodness God has gifted to us”.
“By caring and using the gifts of creation, we participate in the renewal of the earth,” he stressed.
According to him, Christians are called to this renewal in a privileged manner, recognizing that Jesus Christ himself is “the first born of all creation” in whom “were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible ….” (Colossians 1: 15-6).
Quoting St. Paul who wrote “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” (Romans 8: 22-3), the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reminded the faithful to use creation as a “means towards salvation, to which all the universe is moving forward”.
Villegas shared that the previous pontiffs have emphasized the “crucial role of created nature not only for human flourishing but for our own salvation”.
Pope St. John Paul II stated, “It is the Creator’s will that man should treat nature not as a ruthless exploiter but as an intelligent and responsible administrator”, while Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI links this responsibility to the environment with people’s larger obligations to the human community.
“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole,” he added.
Villegas noted that the incumbent Pope Francis identifies care for the environment with our Christian vocation.
The Argentinian pontiff exclaimed, “Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!” (Raymond A. Sebastián)