Pope to diplomats: Denial of God devastates creation

VATICAN CITY — In his address today to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, Pope Benedict focused on the need to safeguard creation, which was the theme of his recent World Peace Day message.

His talk today looked at environmental concerns primarily from a moral perspective, and touched on belief in God, social injustice, misallocation of resources and protection of the unborn.

Here are some highlights from the Vatican’s English-language translation of the pope’s address in French:

The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, inasmuch as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God.

If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate or even set at odds the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn?

The pope took aim at military spending.

…the protection of creation is indeed an important element of peace and justice! Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest.

He said the community of believers clearly has a role to play in fostering more responsible attitudes and lifestyles.

…the causes of the situation which is now evident to everyone are of the moral order, and the question must be faced within the framework of a great program of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles. The community of believers can and wants to share in this, but, for it to do so, its public role must be recognized.

But the church’s voice is not always welcome, he said.

Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular…. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility.

Finally, he said the environmental crisis reflects a “yearning for salvation” present in the world.

There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation. For this reason, the yearning for salvation which affects all creation is all the more intense and present in the hearts of all men and women, believers and non-believers alike…. May the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible.

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