Benedict XVI Offers Middle Ground on Environment

Peace Day Message Addresses Issue of Climate Change

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By Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi



VERONA, Italy, JAN. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The 2010 edition of the traditional Papal message for the World Day of Peace, presented [Dec. 15] by Cardinal Renato Martino, was much anticipated.

In the countries of north-central Europe, and especially in Germany, Benedict XVI's encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" was the object of severe criticism, precisely in regard to the question of the environment, and particularly with regard to climate change.

So it was logical to look forward to the message for this year's World Day of Peace dedicated to the theme "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation."

Benedict XVI did not miss the opportunity to restate his teaching and, thus, probably upsetting once again all those who tend to weigh down ideological themes with excessive ideological burdens.

The central point of the message is, in my opinion, a passage from paragraph 13, where the Pope says that "a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person."

The Church, he continues, expresses misgivings "about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism," because it eliminates the difference between man and other living things, favoring an "egalitarian vision of the 'dignity' of all living creatures."

This thus gives rise to a new pantheism with neo-pagan accents which "would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms."

According to the Church, man has "the role of a steward and administrator," a role which he must not abuse nor abdicate. "In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself."

Benedict XVI does not deny that environmental questions have an impact on poverty, nor that they demand a profound rethinking of the model of development, nor that they imply a consideration of the importance of a greater moderation, but he re-proposes the conviction that if there is not a rethinking of humanity about itself, and if it does not return to see in nature a discourse about us (it is precisely "creation" and not a pile of stones) it will not succeed in acquiring a new moral responsibility even before it works out a new politics.

Both those who do not value material nature and those who respect it more than man as if it were something divine in itself, in the end do not read the message and do not gain wisdom. Fundamentally, both are narrowly technical attitudes.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of the Diocese of Trieste is the president of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church.