“The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads”, wrote Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the Season of Creation celebrated between September 1 and October 4. He added that “we must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving.”
Pope Francis said that in some ways, “the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles” and “has given us a chance to develop new ways of living.” He said that during the pandemic humans could notice that the earth recovers when it is allowed to rest, and quoted as examples cleaner air, clearer waters, and the return of animals to many places from where they had previously disappeared.
This for Pope Francis drives us to examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet.
“We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.”
Creation is groaning
For Pope Francis creation is groaning because our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits.
“Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world. Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify.”
The Pope reminds us that “we cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things”.
The ecumenically chosen theme for this year’s Season of Creation is Jubilee for the Earth, and marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. In the Holy Scriptures, a Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.
Why a Jubilee?
The Jubilee is a time for thinking once again of our fellow human beings, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, to share the common heritage of creation in a “spirit of conviviality, not in competitive scramble but in joyful fellowship, supporting and protecting one another”.
The Jubilee is also a time to listen to the land, to hear the voice of creation and return to our rightful place in the natural created order, remembering that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters.
The Jubilee is also a time when the oppressed are set free. The Pope gives as an example the indigenous people who face injustice and others who are subjected to various forms of modern slavery, such as trafficking in persons and child labour. He also renews his “call for the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19”.
The Season for Creation is today celebrated by different Christian Churches. In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, known as the ‘Green Patriarch’ proclaimed September 1 as Creation Day. Other Christian European Churches joined in 2001while Pope Francis and the Catholic Church joined in 2015.
In 2018, for the first time, the prayer service for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation that took place in Assisi was ecumenical in nature.
This year the Season for Creation coincides with the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, Laudato Si.
The full text of Pope Francis’ “Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”