Bishop Clarifies Man-Nature Relationship

Holy See Organizes Conference at Water Expo

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By Antonio Gaspari

ZARAGOZA, Spain, JULY 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Nature is for man and man is for God, affirmed a Vatican official at the international expo on water under way in Spain.

The Holy See, which has a booth at the expo, organized there a congress on "The Ecological Question: Man's Life in the World."

The Expo Zaragoza 2008 is under way through Sept. 14 and is on "Water and Sustainable Development."

The Vatican conference, held earlier this month, included addresses from Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the dicastery's secretary. Bishop Crepaldi is also the co-author of an Italian-language book on environmental and human ecology.

Bishop Crepaldi pointed out that according to the Church's social doctrine, "nature, understood from the biological and natural point of view, is not something absolute, but wealth put in the responsible and prudent hands of man."

"The Church always sees nature in relation to God and man; she does not see it only as an ensemble of things, but also of meanings," he said. "Nature finds its meaning in a dialogue between man and God, and things themselves find their place in a relationship of love and intelligence.

"Hence, the Church's teaching shines the light of revelation on nature, the light of creation and the eschatological light of redemption."

This light shows, the bishop affirmed, that "nature is for man and man is for God."

Bishop Crepaldi expressed his rejection of reductionist and anti-human ideologies, and suggested an anthropological vision woven into the context of human ecology.

"In the perspective of the social doctrine of the Church, ecology is not only a natural emergency but also an anthropological emergency," because man's "way of relating to the world depends on the way man relates to himself," he noted. In this connection, it is imperative that "nature not be reduced, using the criteria of utilitarianism, and transformed into a mere object of manipulation and exploitation, nor must nature be absolutized and its dignity placed above that of the human person."

In a correct approach to the environmental question, nature must not be considered "a sacred or divine reality, removed from human action." Instead, it is necessary "to harmonize developmental and environmental policies, at the national and international level," the prelate concluded.

History

For his part, Cardinal Martino underlined the importance of referring to sacred Scriptures "to understand the basis of the Church's interest in the ecological or environmental question."

Specifically, the cardinal encouraged reading the account of creation to understand "the relation that God established between the created universe and humanity and the special place in which God put humanity within that universe."

On reviewing the history of the Church's social doctrine and, specifically, the teaching on environmental issues, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace referred to the 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," the first social encyclical of Pope Leo XIII.

According to Cardinal Martino, the social magisterium -- with special reference to environmental issues -- was greatly developed with "Gaudium et Spes," from the Second Vatican Council, which states that in carrying out daily activities, humanity cooperates and completes the work of creation.

Of note also, said the cardinal, was the contribution of Pope Paul VI, who in the 1967 encyclical "Populorum Progressio," pointed out the role of humanity within creation.

Pope John Paul II developed the concept of the environment as home and resource of humanity, and he blended it in a virtuous and moral order within human ecology, Cardinal Martino added. And finally he referred to Benedict XVI's teaching on the role of man, the family and education in order to improve humanity's living conditions and safeguard creation.