Catholics in Aotearoa New Zealand are eagerly anticipating details of Pope Francis’ awaited encyclical on environmental justice – expected to be released late Thursday night New Zealand time.
“Pope Francis signalled by his choice of name his joint concern for the poor and for the environment,” says Cardinal John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, “and in this encyclical – a letter to the Church and the world – we are expecting him to closely link human and environmental wellbeing.”
In this he will be following in a long tradition of Church teaching on the environment and care of creation. In modern times, Pope Paul VI first addressed serious environmental degradation in A Hospitable Earth for Future Generations, aimed at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. Pope John Paul II called for an “ecological conversion”, while Pope Benedict XVI reminded us consistently that the environment was God’s gift to be used responsibly, especially mindful of the poor and future generations.
New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops also drew attention to environmental issues in a statement in 2006, while then Archbishop John Dew joined other Church leaders in a statement on climate change prior to the Copenhagen Conference in 2009.
“Pope Francis is highlighting and focusing the Church’s teaching at a critical time in human history, when the world community is working towards global agreements relating to sustainable development and a changing climate,” says Cardinal Dew. “We expect he will remind us that addressing climate change and other environmental issues requires strong moral and ethical leadership, not just economic and technological solutions. We look forward to what he has to say, and the debate it will surely generate.”
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