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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Neglect of the natural environment is as great a threat to peace and prosperity as global terrorism, Pope Benedict XVI said in his most extensive ecological statement to date, released by the Vatican on Tuesday (Dec. 15).
“If You Want To Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” is the title of Benedict’s message for the 43rd annual World Day of Peace, which will be observed on Jan. 1.
Reciting a litany of environmental woes — including climate change, desertification, water pollution, the loss of biodiversity, and depletion of rain forests — the pope stressed their “profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.”
Benedict connected this “ecological crisis” to the globe’s current economic troubles and lack of equitable food distribution, which are all “ultimately also moral crises” that call for a “profound, long-term review of our model of development” and a “lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity.”
Such solidarity should extend not only between rich and poor nations but across time, the pope wrote, with every generation conscious of its duty to exercise stewardship of the earth for the benefit of those to come.
The message linked responsibility to personal morality, insisting that the “book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics.”
The pope did not specifically mention the United Nations climate summit currently underway in Copenhagen, where political leaders are negotiating ways to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. But Benedict’s message notably called for “efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth’s resources.”
Benedict has addressed environmental problems in previous World Peace Day messages, and in his encyclical on social teaching published in June, but this is his first major text devoted to the topic.
Its release marks the 20th anniversary of “Peace With God the Creator, Peace With All of Creation,” by Pope John Paul II, also written for World Peace Day, and widely considered the start of the Vatican’s engagement with the environmental movement.
By Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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