In Buddhism, the lotus flower is associated with purity, and in Hinduism with beauty. Pope Francis said religions can play an important role in protecting the environment.

In Buddhism, the lotus flower is associated with purity, and in Hinduism with beauty. Pope Francis said religions can play an important role in protecting the environment.

September 26, 2016

With psalms praising the marvels of God's creation and prayers begging God's help to end the selfishness that destroys the earth and harms the poor, Pope Francis led vespers for the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

During the evening service Sept. 1 in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope prayed to God, "Pour out your spirit of wisdom upon us so that we would safeguard the gifts of your providence for the good of each person and every generation."

"Look benevolently upon the poor of the earth and grant that none of them would be lacking their daily bread," he prayed.

"Defeat the selfishness that hardens our hearts and makes our gaze short-sighted before the needs of our brothers and sisters."

The petitions chanted during the service included a prayer that God would "educate our eyes to recognize in creation the traces of his presence" and convert people "to a just and fair use of the goods of the earth."

Last year, Pope Francis asked Catholics to begin marking the day of prayer, an annual event already observed by the Orthodox churches.

In a sign of growing Christian concern for ecology, Orthodox clergy from Italy, as well as Anglican and Lutheran leaders, joined the pope for vespers.

As he did last year on the day of prayer, Pope Francis asked Capuchin Father

Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, to give the homily.

Human beings are the only creatures God created in his image and likeness, Cantalamessa said.

But that affirmation cannot be allowed to lead to "an indiscriminate dominion of

human beings over the rest of creation with consequences that are easily imaginable and unfortunately already occurring."


"Since the Trinity is a communion of love, God created each person as a 'being in relationship,'" he said. "This is the sense in which every human being is 'in the image of God.'"

The less selfish a person is and the more a person is mindful of the needs of others, the Capuchin said, "the more that person is truly human" and truly acting in the image and likeness of God.

"The sovereignty of human beings over the cosmos thus does not entail the triumphalism of our species but the assumption of responsibility toward the weak, the poor (and) the defenceless," he said.

The clearest sign of what God wants from human beings is seen in the status he chose for his son when he sent him into the world, Cantalamessa said. Jesus was "not rich and powerful, but poor, weak and defenceless."


When St. Francis of Assisi famously wept before a Nativity scene, the Capuchin said, it was not because of the fact that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, but because of "the humility and the poverty of the Son of God, who 'though he was rich, yet for our sake became poor.'"

"The love of poverty and love of creation went hand in hand for Francis and shared a common root in his radical renunciation of wanting to own anything," he said.

Cantalamessa said that, as for St. Francis, "the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet" is one of the main concerns of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home.

The priest asked: "What is it that produces the greatest damage to the environment and simultaneously the misery of a great number of people if not the insatiable desire of some to increase their possessions and their profits disproportionately?"