Pope Francis gave an interview about why he called the Pan Amazonian Synod.
Let me be clear. I am a supporter of ecology and taking care of the earth. I live in a coastal community and support my communities ban on plastic bags and straws and the like. I think we need to be careful with how we treat the earth, build our communities and the like.
But all of this is something I would embrace even if I was an atheist. There is nothing particularly Catholic about it although certainly Catholicism calls us to join our brothers and sisters of good will in taking care of the world, of the physical of the body not just of the spiritual, the soul or that which is invisible.
I do have questions about politicizing some aspects of caring for the earth and making some scientific studies about global warming infallible. But that is a secular agenda, not religious and I don’t have to accept every pronouncement by scientists who do so in an authoritarian way as God-given.
In this interview to the Vatican Insider, Pope Francis sounds like a political leader. I felt the same about reading His Holiness’ encyclical on the environment when the Holy Father pontificated on building cities that were friendly and human. That’s fine, but I don’t need the pope to be a city planner and I don’t see my role as priest doing the same. Yes, encourage the laity to find ways to make secular society better. That of course is built upon the Golden Rule and the two greatest Commandments.
The words of the pope in the interview below leave me scratching my head. Why isn’t His Holiness speaking about Jesus, salvation or damnation, morality or immorality in all of this. His Holiness simply sounds like one more secular, progressive politician or leader in all of this and thus does a disservice to the legitimate concern of the Church to do what is right, moral and for our salvation, body and soul, in a world that chooses death over life, immorality or morality, the devil over God.
The other aspect the Holy Father does not warn Catholics and others of good will is that of the apocalyptic and the final consumption of the earth prior to the Second Coming and the Last Judgment. Isn’t the world heading toward this final consummation and the Second Coming and shouldn’t the concern for our personal salvation be paramount in a time that sees an escalation of this consummation? I don’t see this in Pope Francis’ rhetoric. It is purely secular.
Let's ideally cross the ocean and think of South America. Why did you convene a Synod on the Amazon in the Vatican in October?
"It is the "child" of the "Laudato si". Those who have not read it will never understand the Synod on the Amazon. Laudato si' is not a green encyclical, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a "green" reality, the custody of Creation".
Is there any significant episode for you?
"A few months ago, seven fishermen told me: ‘In recent months we have collected 6 tons of plastic’. The other day I read about a huge glacier in Iceland that has almost completely melted: they built a memorial for it. With the Siberia’s wildfires, some glaciers in Greenland melted. The people from a country on the Pacific are moving away because in 20 years the island on which they live will no longer be there. But the fact that has shocked me the most is yet another".
"The Overshoot Day: On July 29th, we used up all the regenerative resources of 2019. From July 30 we started to consume more resources than the planet can regenerate in a year. It's very serious. It's a global emergency. Ours will be an urgent Synod. But beware: a Synod is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is something else. It was convened by the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit".
But why focus on the Amazon?
"It is a representative and decisive place. Together with the oceans it contributes decisively to the survival of the planet. Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from there. That's why deforestation means killing humanity. And then the Amazon involves nine states, so it doesn't concern a single nation. And I'm thinking of the richness of the Amazonian plant and animal biodiversity: it's wonderful".
The Synod will also discuss the possibility of ordering "viri probati", elderly and married men who can make up for the lack of clergy. Will it be one of the main themes?
"Absolutely not: it is simply a topic of the Instrumentum Laboris (the working document, ed.). The important thing will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing".
What are the obstacles to safeguarding the Amazon?
"The threat to the lives of the people and the land derives from the economic and political interests of society's dominant sectors".
So how should politicians behave?
"They should eliminate their connivance and corruption. They must take concrete responsibility, for example on the issue of open-cast mines, which are poisoning water and causing so many diseases. Then there is the issue of fertilizers".
Your Holiness, what do you fear most for our planet?
"The disappearance of biodiversity. New lethal diseases. A drift and devastation of nature that can lead to the death of humanity".
Do you see some new awareness on the environment and climate change issue?
"Yes, especially in the movements of young ecologists, such as the one led by Greta Thunberg, "Fridays for future". I saw a sign from them that struck me: ‘We are the future!’”.
Can our daily conduct – separating waste collection, not wasting water at home – have an impact or is it insufficient to counter this phenomenon?
"It does have an impact, because it is a matter of concrete actions. And then, above all, it creates and spreads the culture of not dirtying creation".