Pope: “Children, go outdoors”

Recently Pope Benedict XVI has made a special mention for French speakers concerning the environment. The full address, for the angleus prayer on Sunday earlier this month, can be read here. The summary can be seen in Zenit below:

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging parents to teach their children to value nature.

The Pope made this invitation today after praying the midday Angelus with pilgrims gathered at the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.

In his words to the French-speaking faithful, he said, “I would like to recommend that during this time of vacation, you revivify your spirits by contemplating the splendors of Creation.”

“Parents,” he said, “teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator!”

Alluding to today’s Gospel, in which Jesus proclaims the parable of the sower, the Holy Father added that with parables, “Jesus used the language of nature to explain to his disciples the mysteries of the Kingdom.”

“May the images he uses become familiar to us,” he said. “Let us remember that the divine reality is hidden in our daily lives like the seed in the soil. May it bear fruit in us! I wish you all a good Sunday!”

Creatio Conference Keynote Speaker Appointed by Pope

Archbishop Chaput at the Creatio Conference 2009

Recent news has revealed the appointment of Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver to the Metropolitan See of Philadelphia, made official today. News can be seen here, here and here. What is notable is that archbishop Chaput was appointed directly by the Pope, against the suggested names given to him in the process.

The Archbishop was the keynote speaker at the first Creatio Conference in 2009 at St. Malo Retreat Center, and spoke about the importance of Catholicism for the environmental challenges of today. He will also be featured in the upcoming 13 episode documentary “The 4th Rupture: A Path Towards Reconciliation” on EWTN, speaking on the Church’s role in stewardship. It is a great blessing to have had the support and guidance of a Bishop soon to be made Cardinal, since Philadelphia usually is the See of a Cardinal.

Tornados and climate change

There have beenmany discussions amongst experts and on the press about the relationship between the high US tornado frequency of 2011 and climate change. Many climate change proponents, Al Gore among them, have attributed the trend to climate change, and there is a constant tendency of attributing disasters to climate change. Others have denied this relationship, as with hurricanes for example. The debate is discussed here, here and here.

With so much confusion, discussion and opinion it is worth running the numbers to sort things out. Here is a neat post with some numbers where you can draw conclusions for yourself.

Pope Benedict XVI: ‘Environmental Meekness’, Summer Camp and Education

Recently Pope Benedict XVI has mentioned the environment in several of his addresses. Most recently  at the Angelus he spoke of Jesus and his message of meekness and humility. The environmental crisis is one of the “wounds of humanity” and the cure is love, which comes from God. To respect the environment we must live and embody the meekness that flows from this love. Environmental improvement comes from inner transformation. The excerpt of the Pope’s specific mention of the environment is below:

Jesus promises to give all “rest,” but he puts a condition: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” What is this “yoke,” which instead of weighing is light, and instead of crushing lifts? The “yoke” of Christ is the law of love, it is his commandment, which he left to his disciples (cf. John 13:34; 15:12). The true remedy for the wounds of humanity — whether they are material, such as hunger and injustice, or psychological and moral, caused by a false sense of well being — is a rule of life based on fraternal love, which has its source in the love of God.

It is therefore necessary to abandon the path of arrogance and violence that is used to procure positions of greater power, so as to ensure success at any cost. Also, out of respect for the environment, it is necessary to give up the aggressive lifestyle that has become prevalent in the last centuries and to adopt a reasonable “meekness.” But above all in human, interpersonal and social relations, the rule of respect and of nonviolence, that is, the force of truth against any abuse is what can ensure a future worthy of man.

In another address, to the Roman Ecclesial Congress, the Pope emphasized the importance of education and faith formation. He specifically mentioned the soft spot Pope John Paul II had for the youth”, the need for a “creative catechetics” which will take into account the context, culture and age of those to whom it is addressed” and “to teach silence and interiority”. Finally, among other means he specifically mentioned the importance of summer camps.

At this point I find it pertinent to put in a plug for the John Paul II Adventure Institute and Camp Wojtyla, which specifically embody all of these aspects, under the guidance of Blessed John Paul II. The JP II Adventure Institute is based in Colorado and associated with Camp St. Malo  and Creatio. Below the Pope’s words that should be a source of inspiration for all. The full address can be read here:

Still today, the after-school prayer and recreation centers, the summer camps and small and important experiences of service are a precious help to adolescents who are undertaking the process of Christian initiation in order to develop a consistent commitment to life. I therefore encourage them to take this path, which leads to discovery of the Gospel, not as a utopia but as the full form of life.

The Wood and the Cross: Logging violence in Brazil

Chico Mendes and his children

Growing up in Sao Paulo, I always remembered hearing of how wild the Amazon, the ‘Wild West’ of Brazil, really was: guns, feuds, murder, landlords, outlaws etc. It seems that things have not changed much. The Brazilian paper Globo has recently reported a few articles about the repressive and murderous measures of loggers in the Brazilian Amazon.

Brazil has a long history of ‘eco-martyrs’ so to speak, people who have died in the name of environmental preservation. The most famous one of course is Chico Mendes, a rubber tapper who was assassinated because he opposed logging in the state of Pará. But this was the  1980’s. More recently, is the case of sister Dorothy Stang, an American Catholic religious missionary living in the Amazon who protested logging abuses. She was murdered in 2005 by landowners, in a case remarkably similar to Mendes’.

Last week, the Globo reports, one logger allegedly involved in Stang’s murder was apprehended by the police after the tip from another nun and member of Stang’s congregation. The logger was stealing trees from the Caiapós reserve which protects 30 000 hectares of virgin forest and has been the target of loggers since 2009. It was due to the exact same protests that Stang was murdered, and now the other unnamed nun is under serious risk.

More recently in May 2011 a couple, José Cláudio Ribeiro e Maria do Espírito Santo, were also murdered by loggers in another region of the Amazon at Nova Ipixuna, were 12 illegal logging facilities harvest protected trees. So far no one has been even accused, let alone captured, for these criminal acts. A British financed documentary is currently being produced about the ‘eco-martyrs’ of the Amazon, if you know Portuguese you can read it here.

At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity.
—Chico Mendes

Surfing and the Dalai Lama

The exiled Dalai Lama talks with Pope John Paul II at the Exedra Hotel on Nov. 27, 2003, in Rome, Italy. The Dalai Lama visited the pope eight times, more than any other foreign dignitary, and the two were close friends.

I have spoken plenty about how Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI engage the environment in several places, here, here and here for example. What does the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism have to say? Recently Kelly Slater, the world’s best surfer ever, among other celebrities, met with the Dalai Lama and asked him questions. Kelly Slater’s:  “Have you ever thought about catching a wave?”

You can read the article here, but basically the Dalai Lama had to have surfing explained as a new concept.  “He then went on to talk about he had grown up near a pond but never learned to swim. Now, when he travels, he often looks out the window of the plane while flying over great bodies of water and thinks about what would happen if the plane were to go down in the ocean.”

Yet personal experience isn’t necessarily a mark for caring for Creation. While John Paul II was an avid outdoorsman, Benedict XVI has plenty to say about the environment and has a clear aversion to the practice of sports (for himself). Like Pope Benedict XVI the Dalai Lama doesn’t seem like the practicing type, but has said much on the issue.  Interestingly, there seems to be a similarity in finding the root of environmental problems in interior human behavior and the commitment to future generations:

“Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth’s living things; “As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility towards others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.”

But while there are similarities, there are also clear distinctions, which draw on the sources of personal transformation, what moral values are upheld, and vastly different conceptions of theology and God. For more on the Dalai Lama and ecology read here.