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Photo of the week: A cardinal’s views on environment might be preview of pope’s encyclical

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Catholic News Service

MAYNOOTH, Ireland — The greatest threats facing humanity are those “that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment,” said a top Vatican official.

Those threats are interrelated, so Pope Francis is promoting an “integral ecology,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

A Nepalese man hugs a tree while celebrating World Environment Day at the forest of Gokarna, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, in this 2014 photo. The greatest threats facing humanity are those "that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment," said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (CNS photo/Narendra Shrestha, EPA)
A Nepalese man hugs a tree while celebrating World Environment Day at the forest of Gokarna, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, in this 2014 photo. The greatest threats facing humanity are those “that arise from global inequality and the destruction of the environment,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (CNS photo/Narendra Shrestha, EPA)

Delivering the 2015 Trocaire Lenten Lecture at St. Patrick’s Pontifical University March 5, the Ghanaian cardinal said that for the pope, integral ecology, as the basis for justice and development in the world, requires “a new global solidarity.”

“We all have a part to play in protecting and sustaining what Pope Francis has repeatedly called our common home,” he said.

“At the heart of this integral ecology” is the call to “a changing of human hearts in which the good of the human person, and not the pursuit of profit, is the key value that directs our search for the global, the universal common good,” the cardinal told bishops, priests, seminarians, religious and laity who attended the address.

He said Pope Francis’ encyclical on human ecology will explore the relationship between care for creation, integral human development and concern for the poor and will be published “before the summer” and in time for the pope’s September visit to New York and his address to the United Nations.

The cardinal said he has seen a draft of the encyclical but emphasized that “many people are still working on it,” so it would be a “sciocchezza” (foolishness) to anticipate its contents.

However, he told the delegates to “give great attention to the forthcoming encyclical” as “we confront the threat of environmental catastrophe on a global scale.”

Drawing from Catholic social thought, rooted in the Scriptures and natural reason, Pope Francis’ first principle of integral ecology is the call to protect and care for both creation and people, which are reciprocal concepts and together make for authentic and sustainable human development, the cardinal said.

“Clearly this is not some narrow agenda for the greening the church or the world. It is a vision of care and protection that embraces the human person and the human environment in all possible dimensions,” he said.

He also referred to Pope Francis’ Feb. 9 morning homily, in which he said “it is wrong and a distraction to contrast ‘green’ and ‘Christian.’” In fact, the pope said, “a Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.”

When Pope Francis says that destroying the environment is a grave sin; when he says that it is not large families that cause poverty but an economic culture that puts money and profit ahead of people; when he says people cannot save the environment without also addressing the profound injustices in the distribution of the goods of the earth; when he says that this is “an economy that kills,” he is not making some political comment about the relative merits of capitalism and communism, but is restating teachings from the Bible, Cardinal Turkson said.

Describing 2015 as “a critical year for humanity,” he said the coming 10 months are crucial for the decisions about international development, the fate of humanity and care for the earth.

He explained this was because in July the third International Conference on Financing for Development will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; in September the U.N. General Assembly will agree a new set of sustainable development goals for the period up to 2030; and in December, the climate change conference in Paris will make plans and commitment to slow or reduce the pace of global warming.