Pope Vatican

Pope Francis to Filipinos: Care for the environment

Pia Ranada
Pope Francis to Filipinos: Care for the environment
'We need to see, with the eyes of faith, the beauty of God's saving plan, the link between the natural environment and the dignity of the human person'

MANILA, Philippines – On his last whole day in the Philippines, Pope Francis posed a challenge to Filipinos: care for the environment and protect each other from the effects of climate change.

Both in an undelivered speech at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and his homily during the public Mass in Luneta, Pope Francis mentioned prominently the importance of caring for Mother Nature.

In a speech that was supposed to have been delivered during his meeting with the youth at UST, he enjoined the youth to be stewards of God’s creation. 

“You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!” 

He described respect for the environment as being more than simply using eco-friendly products or recycling.

“These are important aspects, but not enough. We need to see, with the eyes of faith, the beauty of God’s saving plan, the link between the natural environment and the dignity of the human person.”

Both in the speech and his homily in the Luneta mass, which was attended by millions of people, he spoke of the world as a “beautiful garden,” which all of humanity is tasked to protect.

“When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil, and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling,” said the Pope, who has previously called the deforestation of a rainforest a “sin.”

True to his previous statements about the environment, he framed care for Mother Nature as being deeply connected to caring for fellow human beings. 

The fact that the Philippines is “likely to be seriously affected by climate change” is just one reason to protect air, land, and sea, he said in his planned UST speech. 

In the same speech, he told the Filipino youth to think deeply of the consequences of wasteful lifestyles and plunder of the earth’s resources. 

“Dear young people, the just use and stewardship of the earth’s resources is an urgent task, and you have an important contribution to make. You are the future of the Philippines. Be concerned about what is happening to your beautiful land!”

It’s not the first time the pontiff, known as the “green” pope, highlighted his environmental advocacy in public speeches. (READ: Pope Francis, the climate activist)

A mini-encyclical he delivered in October 28, his first major message to the Catholic world, talked of the “plunder of nature” as one of the perpetrators of human suffering.

He has also committed to releasing an encyclical in 2015 that will put the spotlight on climate change, the most all-encompassing environmental crisis faced by the world today.

Vatican officials have said Pope Francis wants the encyclical to directly influence a crucial international climate change conference in Paris in December 2015. (READ: Pope calls for more courage on climate change)

The conference is expected to finalize commitments from countries all over the world to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions – a major driver of climate change.

The highlight of his Philippine trip was a visit to Tacloban and Palo in Leyte, one of the cities worst hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).

Scientists have listed loss of lives due to typhoons and massive displacement of human settlements as some of the possible effects of a warming planet.

Just last December, the Philippines was named the country that has suffered the most from climate change. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.