Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said this Friday, at the end of the dicastery's two-day conference.
It brought together some 80 experts and focused on various aspects of climate change and the development of peoples.
"Nature is for the human person and the human person is for God," Cardinal Martino said. "In considering the problems associated with climate change, one must look to the social doctrine of the Church," which "neither supports the absolutization of nature, nor the reduction of nature to a mere instrument."
"Nature is not an absolute, but a wealth that is placed in the person's responsible and prudent hands," he added.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace explained that the human person cannot be placed on an equal plane with other creatures.
"The person has an indisputable superiority over creation and, in virtue of his personhood and being gifted with an immortal soul, cannot be placed on an equal plane with other living beings, nor can he be considered a disturbing element in the natural ecological equilibrium," the 74-year-old cardinal said.
He continued: "The person does not have an absolute right over nature but rather a mandate to conserve and develop it in light of the universal destination of the earth's goods which is one of the fundamental principles of the social doctrine of the Church."
The president of the Vatican dicastery noted the problems associated with climate change, and said that "the social doctrine of the Church must deal with the many modern forms of idolatry of nature that lose sight of the person."
"Similar views of ecology emerge in the debate on demographic problems and on the relationship between peoples, environment and development," he added.
Cardinal Martino recalled the 1994 international conference in Cairo on population and development.
There, "the Holy See had to oppose, together with many Third World countries, the idea that the increase in population in the coming decades would cause the collapse of the earth's natural balances and would impede development," he said.
"These theses have been refuted and, thank goodness, are in regression," said the cardinal. He explained that the proposed solutions for these erroneous ideas were abortion and mass sterilization of the poor.
"The Church proposes a realistic view of things. She has faith in the person and in his ability to look for new solutions to the problems that history places before him -- an ability that enables him to refute recurring and improbable catastrophic forecasts," he added.
The cardinal recalled that "according to the concept of human ecology developed by Pope John Paul II, ecology is not only a natural emergency, but an anthropological emergency, in which what is valued is man's relationship with himself and above all his relationship with God."
"An anthropological error is therefore a theological error," underlined Cardinal Martino. "When the person wants to take God's place, he loses sight of himself and his responsibility to govern nature."