Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and UNESCO’s director-general signed the UNESCO Convention for the new cycle of studies on Ecology and Environment at Lateran University. Faced with the "complexity of the ecological crisis", "it is not enough to repeat statements of principle"; instead, "responsibility, concreteness and competence" are needed. Lateran University is tasked to make its own contribution in this field.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis went to the Pontifical Lateran University this morning where he inaugurated a new cycle of studies titled Care of our Common Home and Protection of Creation and the UNESCO Chair On Futures of Education for Sustainability.
In his address, the pontiff said that countering "the evil we are causing to the planet" with "wicked actions" that threaten "the very life of the earth" requires an "ecological conversion” to which academic activity can contribute.
UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, joined the pontiff at the event.
Faced with the "complexity of the ecological crisis", the Pope noted, "it is not enough to repeat statements of principle”; what are needed are "responsibility, concreteness and competence”.
Lateran University can contribute to this task since it is called to foster "integral ecological conversion to preserve the splendour of nature; above all by rebuilding the necessary unity between the natural and social sciences with what theological, philosophical and ethical reflection offers, so as to inspire legal norms and a sound economic vision.”
Thanking UNESCO for “starting the path with a chair On Futures of Education for Sustainability,” Francis stressed that the new cycle of studies in ecology and the environment is "also part of the journey towards full ecclesial communion” since it will be operated together with the Ecumenical Patriarchate "with an open perspective, a great capability to draw the attention of Christian Churches, various religious communities, those who are searching and those who profess to be non-believers.”
The Pope acknowledged that, when the encyclical Laudato si' was being elaborated, Bartholomew and the Church of Constantinople provided strong leadership, as the first Christian Church to commit herself to environmental issues.
For his part, Bartholomew reiterated that both the Patriarchate and the Catholic Church will work "collaboratively and conscientiously” to address the ecological crisis.
“This is not only a response to political or economic concerns; it is, above all, a response to the divine mandate to take care of the gift of creation, to serve and preserve the Earth as God commanded Adam and Eve to do in the Book of Genesis,” the Patriarch said.
“Unfortunately,” he added, “many politicians and companies are still reluctant to adopt policies and practices to stop the problem. Precisely for this reason we need universities and schools to show the seeds necessary to motivate the appropriate response and the necessary transformation. Education, at all its levels, is a powerful vehicle for addressing the lack of progress in our communities and also in our Churches."
Similarly, Francis warned that “expectations related to the objectives of sustainable development set for 2030 are receding, together with more specific goals related to the protection of air, water, climate and the fight against desertification; perhaps because we have linked these goals only to a cause-effect relationship, possibly in the name of efficiency, forgetting that ‘There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology’” (Enc. Laudato si', 118). Without a true integral ecology, we will have ‘another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones’ (ibid.)
“The idea of a special cycle of studies, therefore, serves to transform, even among believers, the sole interest in the environment into a mission carried out by trained people, the result of an adequate educational experience. This is the greatest responsibility vis-à-vis those who, due to environmental degradation, are excluded, abandoned and forgotten.
“The Churches, by their very vocation, and every person of good will are called to this task to make all the necessary contributions, speaking out for those who have no voice, standing above partisan interests and not simply lament.”
To this end, the Lateran University is encouraged “to continue, with humility and perseverance, intercepting the signs of the times. This kind of attitude requires openness, creativity, broader educational offers, but also sacrifice, commitment, transparency and rectitude in choices, especially in such difficult times.
“Let us definitively drop [the idea] that ‘We have always done it this way’. This is suicidal. ‘We have always done it this way’ does not make anyone credible because it generates superficiality and answers that are valid only in appearance (cf. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, 33). Instead, we are called to do a serious job that requires everyone to show generosity and selflessness and respond to a cultural context whose challenges wait for concreteness, precision and the ability to compare.”
At the end of the meeting, the Pope, the Patriarch and UNESCO’s director-signed the UNESCO Convention for the new cycle of studies at the “Pope's University" on Ecology and the Environment.