Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Challenge of the Environment

By Pope Francis (Translated by Dr. Joseph Thenasseril); 2021; St Paul’s Publications; Pages: 97 pgs; MRP: ₹ 140/-; ISBN: 978-93-5015-367-3; Available at St. Paul’s Media Center in Mumbai and online.

‘God forgives all the time, Man forgives sometimes, but Nature never forgives’.

Thus, Pope Francis, in this book consisting of his thoughts, speeches, and homilies on Creation, makes it clear to us the timely need to respond to the global suffering that is taking place. He urges us to collectively work together and have a shared responsibility and accountability for the destruction of Creation’s bounty. Pope Francis in this tiny little book significantly impacts our thoughts by relating Creation with community and civic development. He begs us to stand united and to not let our technological innovations and consumerism make us merciless and mere monsters towards Creation.

We are asked to remember that Creation is not a heritage from our parents but a loan given to us from future generations.

Pope Francis systematically tackles each and every part of the environment we have taken for granted. From the destruction of rain forests to the migration of the poor due to climatic changes, from the destruction of the Earth’s biodiversity to indigenous populations losing their way of life, from the pollution of our oceans to the detrimental way we are using land – Pope Francis covers every aspect to make us realize that we have only used and abused Mother Nature. He wants us now, along with himself, to change the way we look at nature.

Pope Francis mentions that the way we relate to material things implies how we relate to God and the sacredness of celestial realities. Thus, he invokes the Thomist or Saint Thomas Aquinas’s perspective in relating our relationship with material beings. He implores the link between Ecumenical Dialogue and care for the environment. Following the footsteps of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis asks us not to serve the economic interests of the MNCs who only look to their own selfish interests, and instead be guardians of God’s gifts to us in the form of his Creation.

His Holiness mentions to us some hard facts about the environment that we must take into account. If we do not, then he tells us to look at our situation today. Are we not having piecemeal Third World Wars being fought every day with Mother Nature? He implores us to take a good look at ourselves first, then Scripture which talks about Creation especially in the book of Genesis, and then at the world around us. Indeed, God has kept His side of the bargain, but we as humans have not kept the ecological equilibrium.

Here are some of the other topics covered in this very moving little book:

  • The Canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi and its significance to build ecological virtues in our Church and the world.

  • To reuse and not abuse. By reusing and then recycling, we show a sense of dignity, love, and depth of Spirit in this otherwise highly materialistic world.

  • That Ecological Virtues for caring for God’s Creation starts from the Family and must be carried out by SCCs, the Parish Church, Convents, and Seminaries.

  • There is no ecology without anthropology, so we must also consider the rights of the indigenous populations and migrants who are losing their homes due to global warming and the destruction of their forests.

  • The Biblical aspects of the elements as giving Thanksgiving to God, not based on greed and exploitation.

  • The paradox of abundance where nutrition, food, and water are concerned.

  • To listen to the young who are not included in these talks about their own future, and much more.

More than this, for the first time in print, we have Pope Francis’s writing titled ‘A Great Hope’, which is focused on the Generative power of God’s love for Creation and us, and how we must make it a vocation to protect and nurture Mother Nature. Persons, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership are the 5 Ps of this movement which we should focus on through our liturgy to make us more caring towards Creation.

Our Mother Earth would also be an excellent book for children and youth who would like to know the Holy Father’s thoughts about sustainable development and the environment.

As Pope Francis says in this book, let us not be remembered as a generation that made terrible mistakes. Instead, let us be remembered as a generation that saved our world for the sake of love for God, His Creation, and our future.

Review by Fiza Pathan