Tag Archives: environment

The Pope and his farm

COWS SEEN ON PAPAL FARM AT CASTEL GANDOLFOThis a bit of old news: the pope has a 55 acre farm, he is concerned about the environment, what and how we eat and supports Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Why? Because he knows the supreme value of living off the land, attending to God’s creation, how much of the world lives today. Plus, the Pope needs to be aware of the assault creation faces with the use of chemicals and exploitative farming and human practices.

His farm at Castel Gandolfo –the papal summer residence 15 miles south of Rome– is a working farm with cows, 8 bee hives, vegetables, an olive grove and more. At this same farm is a working Observatory where serious astrophysics takes place, but that is another story. Not only does the daily papal menu contain fresh vegetables and meets, the produce is sold at the Vatican store making about $330K per annum. Amazing? No, not really. We are used to seeing the regal side of the papacy with rich religious and civil ceremonies and only now we are more aware of the active charitable side that has been a part of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome for a very long time.  In this instance, Pope Pius XI established the farm in 1929.

A well-maintained farm is a well-maintained person and environment. We need, I believe, to renew our efforts in understanding the rhythms of the land so that we understand ourselves and in doing so understand ourselves as collaborators with God in building up His Kingdom on earth.

Jason Best has an article, “The Vatican Has a Farm, and Pope Francis is Going to Open it Up to the Public.” There are other stories about the farm from some news agencies: “A Visit to the Vatican Farm,” “How Cow!” and “The pope’s land of milk and honey.”

Would you be interested in issues pertaining to food justice? Read this article.

“The food we throw away is as if stolen from the table of the poor,” the Pope teaches

The are several great things we have to attend to with the Pope’s address today in Rome. Two quick ones: “losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls “the rhythm of the love story of God and man.” WOW! Bingo!

We live in an era where disposability and waste is routine: shoes, cars, pencils, clothes, human life, etc. Don’t like it, not the “right color”, it is not right for me: all these sentiments are clear indications that you and I are careful on how and why we use our material and human resources. The Pope in his weekly Wednesday audience today drew our attention to the reality of waste. During the pontificate of John Paul II we Catholics were introduced to the concept of solidarity. But we were also introduced dramatically to the concept of encounter with the Lord, and with one another. The examination of conscience we will do today ought elicit some painful realizations that I hope will encourage meaningful and concrete change in how we relate to God, the other person, and to creation. Call what Francis did many things: naming the culture of death, pointing to a mentality of waste, singling a need to change our behavior so that the poor may eat. Francis’ teaching is not new –it re-proposes the beauty of our Catholic teaching. Pope Francis exposes a deep wound in our relationships that needs healing.

What is our response? What response can we find with the help of the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Franciscans? What can the laity do with the clergy to be more attentive to these rhythms of God’s love story???

Pope Francis….

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Today I want to focus on the issue of the environment, which I have already spoken of on several occasions. Today we also mark World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations, which sends a strong reminder of the need to eliminate the waste and disposal of food.

When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it (cf. 2:15). And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb “to cultivate” reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication! Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not “care” for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls “the rhythm of the love story of God and man.” Why does this happen? Why do we think and live in a horizontal manner, we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.

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The Church, ecology and Earth Day: works of being Pro Life

In his short pontificate Pope Benedict XVI became the “green pope.” He was the one who really did do much to bridge a gap between faith and ecology. In his mind, faith and ecology appeals not only a respect for the environment but it is integral for a profound respect for human dignity, womb to tomb. Hence, a respect for creation is also a pro life stance; pro life work is properly called a “human ecology.”

The Brazilian bishops in 2011 heard Benedict teach that “man is not God, but his image, that is why he must try to be more sensitive to the presence of God in what surrounds him: in all creatures and, especially, int eh human in whom there is a certain epiphany of God.” To do otherwise, establishes in humanity “contempt for himself and for what surrounds him.”

Hence, “This is why the first ecology that must be defended is ‘human ecology.’ That is, without a clear defense of human life, from its conception to its natural death, without a defense of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, without a defense of those who are excluded and marginalized by society, without forgetting in this context those who lose everything, victims of natural disasters, there can never be talk of a genuine defense of the environment…. [There is] “an imperative that stems from the awareness that God entrusts his creation to man, not so that he can exercise over it an arbitrary dominion, but to preserve and care for it, as a son takes care of his father’s inheritance.”

Actually, the church can call other popes by the same title. Nevertheless, the emphasis today is care for what has given us as a gift to cherish, and to work effectively with, the earth. In 2011 Benedict addressed Italian students calling them to be “guardians of nature” by walking the path prepared by Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.

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Today is Earth Day, an observance started in 1970 to encourage us to breathe fresh air, enjoy nature and do something respectful of creation.

The pope emeritus said, “Today more than ever, it has becomes clear that respect for the environment cannot forget the recognition of the value of the human person and its inviolability at every stage and in every condition of life. Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one, but both can grow and find their right measure if we respect in the human being and in nature the Creator and his creation. On this, dear young people, I believe to find allies in you, true “guardians of life and creation.”


In 2010, Pope Benedict wrote in message on the World Day of Peace,

Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Message for the World Day of Peace to the theme: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation. He emphasized our relationship, as God’s creatures, with the universe all around us. “In our day”, he wrote, “there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature“. He added that “ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programs and initiatives.” Previous Popes had spoken of the relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1971, for example, on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII‘s Encyclical Rerum Novarum, Paul VI pointed out that “by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (man) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation”. He added that “not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illnesses and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family.”

Various churchmen, including Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI have lent their voices to those of Patriarch Bartholomew’s in drawing our attention to have care and concern for the earth. Indeed, our ecumenical and interfaith partners have provided some good work to demonstrate in concrete way our respect for the Earth. The thinking is based on the biblical narrative and a ecclesial tradition.

Some Church and ecumenical documentation:

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Work for the good of every person on earth: fight spiritual and material poverty, Pope exhorts

Speaking in French today, Pope Francis gave his talk in Italian outlined to the world’s diplomats the mission of his pontificate: building peace AND constructing bridges of dialogue,  combatting spiritual AND material poverty. This is part 2 of his “pontifical program of ministry.” The Pontiff met the more than 180 accredited diplomats in Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican.

English: world map of the Vatican foreign rela...

World map of the Vatican foreign relations; dark green: diplomatic relations, light green: other relations, gray: no official relations (credit: Wikipedia)

Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.

Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.

As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism,” which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

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In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment. The Pope said:

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavor. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

The Primacy of the Human, develop a human ecology, Pope reminds

The primacy of the human is based on our belief in the transcendent. All aspects of the human person –politics, philosophy, ethics, economics and medicine– are rooted in the respect of and in engagement with the Divine. Catholics will further develop this idea of the transcendent by reflecting on the Trinity of the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A personal God who lives and is active in history. The pope addressed the new ambassadors of Moldova, Equatorial Guinea, Belize, Syria, Ghana and New Zealand on 9 June when they presented their diplomatic credentials to the Holy See. Ordinarily, one doesn’t pay lots of attention to papal discourses made to the diplomats but it seems that there is some serious thinking going on here with the Pope viz. this sector of his ministry.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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