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Pope Francis Meeting of the Laudato Si Communities 12.09.20

Pope Francis: Meeting of the Laudato Si Communities 12.09.20

Pope Francis        12.09.20 Speech, Paul VI Audience Hall            Meeting of the Laudato Si Communities

Pope Francis Meeting of the Laudato Si Communities 12.09.20

Dear brothers and sisters!

I welcome you, and in greeting you I wish to reach all the members of the Laudato Si’ Communities in Italy and throughout the world. I thank Mr. Carlo Petrini in my father language, rather than my mother tongue. You have placed the integral ecology proposed by the Encyclical Laudato Si’ as the driving force behind all your initiatives. Integral, because we are all creatures and everything in creation is related; everything is related. In fact, I would like to say, everything is harmonious. Even the pandemic has demonstrated this: the health of humanity cannot be separated from that of the environment in which we live. It is also clear that climate change not only upsets the balance of nature, but also causes poverty and hunger, afflicting the most vulnerable and sometimes forcing them to leave their land. The neglect of creation and social injustices influence each other: it may be said that there is no ecology without equality and there is no equality without ecology.

You are motivated to take care of the least among us and of creation, and you choose to do so following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, with meekness and industriousness, and I renew my appeal for a commitment to safeguarding our common home. This task concerns everyone, especially those responsible for nations and productive activities. We need the genuine will to tackle the root causes of the climate upheavals that are happening. Generic commitments are not enough, and one cannot look only as far as the immediate consent of one's voters or investors. We must look far ahead, otherwise history will not forgive us. We need to work today for everyone’s future. Young people and the poor will hold us to account. It's our challenge. I take a sentence from the martyr theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: our challenge today is not "how we can get out of this"; our real challenge is "how the life of the next generation will be": we must think about this!

Dear friends, now I would like to share with you two key words of integral ecology: contemplation and compassion.

Contemplation. Today, the nature that surrounds us is no longer admired, but “devoured”. We have become voracious, dependent on immediate profit and results, and at any cost. Our outlook on reality is increasingly rapid, distracted, superficial, while news and forests are burnt in a short time. Sickened by consumption, we are eager to have the latest “App”, but no longer know the names of our neighbours, much less how to distinguish one tree from another. And what is more serious, we lose our roots with this lifestyle, we lose our gratitude for what there is and for who gave it to us. So as not to forget, we must return to contemplation; so as not to be distracted by a thousand useless things, we must find silence; for the heart not to become sick, we must be still. It is not easy. It is necessary, for example, to free ourselves from the imprisonment of the mobile phone, to look into the eyes of those who are next to us and the creation that has been given to us.

To contemplate is to give ourself time to be silent, to pray, to restore harmony to the soul , the healthy balance between head, heart and hands, between thought, feeling and action. Contemplation is the antidote to hasty, superficial and inconclusive choices. Those who contemplate learn to feel the ground that sustains them, to understand that they are not alone and without meaning in the world. They discover the tenderness of God’s gaze and understand that they are precious. Everyone is important in God’s eyes, everyone can transform a part of the world polluted by human voracity into the good reality willed by the Creator. Those who know how to contemplate do not remain with their hands in their pockets, but instead find something tangible to do. Contemplation leads you to action.

Here, then, is the second word: compassion. It is the fruit of contemplation. How is it understood that someone is contemplative, if someone has assimilated God’s outlook? If someone has compassion for others, compassion is not to say: "this pains me...", compassion is "to suffer with", if someone goes beyond excuses and theories in order to see others as brothers and sisters to be protected. What Carlo Petrini said at the end about fraternity. This is the proof, because this is what God’s gaze does, who despite all the evil we think and do, always sees us as His beloved children. He does not see individuals, but sons and daughters; He sees us as brothers and sisters of a single family living in the same house. We are never strangers to His eyes. His compassion is the opposite of our indifference. Indifference – I allow myself a phrase that's a bit vulgar – is that "I don't care" that enters the heart, into the mentality, and that ends with "let them fend for themselves". Compassion is the opposite of indifference.

This applies to us too: our compassion is the best vaccine against the epidemic of indifference. “It has nothing to do with me”, “it is not up to me”, “it does not concern me”: these are the symptoms of indifference. There is a beautiful photograph – I have said it other times – made by a Roman photographer, it is located in Apostolic Almoners office. One winter night, you can see that an older lady comes out of a luxury restaurant, with fur hat and gloves, well protected against the cold, comes out, after eating well – that is not a sin, eat well! – and there is at the door another woman, with a crutch, poorly dressed, you can see that she feels the cold... a homeless woman, with her hand outstretched... And the lady coming out of the restaurant looks the other way. The photo is called "Indifference." When I saw it, I called the photographer to say, "You were good at taking this spontaneously," and I said to put it in the Almoners office. As an image so as not to fall into the spirit of indifference. Those who have compassion instead pass from “you do not matter to me” to “you are important to me”. However, compassion is not just a nice sentiment, it is not pietism; it is creating new bonds with others. And taking responsibility for them, like the Good Samaritan who, moved by compassion, takes care of the unfortunate man he does not even know (see Lk 10:33-34). The world needs this creative and active charity, people who do not stay in front of a screen making comments, but who are willing to get their hands dirty to remove degradation and restore dignity. Having compassion is a choice: it is choosing to have no enemies, so as to see everyone as a neighbour. And that's a choice.

This does not mean becoming weak and giving up the fight. Rather, those who have compassion enter into a daily struggle against rejection and waste, discarding others and discarding things. It hurts to think of how many people are discarded without compassion: the elderly, children, workers, persons with disabilities… Wasting things is also scandalous. The FAO has documented that in one year more than a billion tonnes of edible food is thrown away in industrialised countries! Together let us help each other to fight against rejection and waste; let us demand political decisions that combine progress and equality, development and sustainability for everyone, so that no one be deprived of the land we inhabit, the good air we breathe, the water we have the right to drink and the food we have the right to eat.

I am sure that the members of every one of your Communities would not settle to live as spectators, but will be meek and determined protagonists in building the future for all. And all this is fraternity. Working as and as brothers. Build universal fraternity. And this is the moment. This is today's challenge. My wish for you is that you may nurture contemplation and compassion, indispensable ingredients of integral ecology. Thank you again for your presence and for your commitment. Thank you for your prayers. To those of you who pray, I ask you to pray, and to those who do not pray, at least send me good vibes: I need it! And now I would like to ask God to bless each of you, bless the hearts of each of you, whether believer or non-believer, of whatever religious tradition. God bless all of you. Amen.