The environment: from St. Francis to Pope Francis

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

The Catholic Church teaches that we need to care for the environment in a serious and effective manner, and recycling is one important means to this end. 

Since our actions have lasting consequences on the earth and its ability to sustain life, we should care for the earth, but also repair the harm which has been done to it. In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis warns us that our “sister [Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

While environmental issues affect everyone’s wellbeing, the poor are disproportionately affected by them. Francis quotes a Bolivian conference of bishops, saying, “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” 

Not only has Pope Francis stressed the importance of caring for our common home, the earth, but he also explains that he is part of a tradition of papal environmentalism going back even to Pope St. John XXIII. 

Pope St. John Paul II warns against the sinful human tendency “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption,” a mentality which helps to cause these environmental injustices. Such abuse caused JPII to call for a “global ecological conversion” over 40 years ago. 

With an understanding of the problem and with an concept of the ideal, we must begin to work towards a solution for this environmental problem. Pope Francis encourages the faithful to look to St. Francis of Assisi as “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.” 

St. Francis lived a life of extreme poverty and extreme love, allowing him to appreciate the value of every living being. St. Francis “shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” 

Let us, like our Holy Father, ask St. Francis to intercede for us so that we may develop the love he had for God, the poor and the environment.

With such a mentality, we may be more motivated to care for our environment to the best of our ability. Resist falling into complacency, heeding one more warning of Francis’: “People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.” 


If you are persuaded, then I urge you to ensure your actions reflect what you think. If you are yet unpersuaded, I encourage you to read Laudato Si, so that you may be persuaded by the Vicar of Christ himself.

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