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Catholics gather at the Vatican for a major symposium on the environment.

May 6, 2014:

Cardinal Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, who opened this important meeting

An international gathering of 41 academics, economists, environmentalists and human rights representatives has been meeting in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences within the Vatican, Rome, to address the topic: Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility. In a packed programme across six days delegates will discuss papers addressing issues of environmental exploitation, human rights, social inclusion and sustainability deriving from what is referred to as ‘unsustainable growth’.

The symposium was opened by Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB of Honduras who is the president of Caritas Internationalis. Starting from the premise that “Nowadays man finds himself to be a technical giant and an ethical child.” the Cardinal’s address called for the re-introduction of ethics and values into society in order to do what is right and needful to achieve sustainability and social justice. Crucial to achieving this, he argued, was the need for education to emphasise values, stating: “The solution to mankind’s sustainability issues is not to be improvised: we must prepare ourselves through education by developing discerning citizens that are committed with the ideals of democracy, justice, and respect for one another and the environment.”

The Cardinal also stressed that this was something that was not the sole prerogative of Christians but should concern all cultures and religions ‘because we are all citizens of the same planet.”

Coming at a time when it is understood that Pope Francis is preparing an encyclical about humanity’s relationship to creation and following the canonisations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John-Paul II, both of whom had been instrumental in bringing environmental issues onto the agenda of Catholic spirituality this prestigious gathering is being seen as a highly significant consolidation of the role of the Church in the movement for sustainability.

Useful links

You can read the full text of Cardinal Maradiaga’s address here

You can see the programme for the symposium here

An appreciation of the environmental contributions of Pope John Paul XXIII and Pope John Paul II can be found here

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