Pope Francis proposed on Thursday that caring for the environment be added to the traditional seven works of mercy that Christians are called to perform, which include feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.
The Pope, who has been a vocal advocate for action against climate change, said the faithful should use the holy year to ask forgiveness for their “sins” against the environment and to “acknowledge our sins against creation, the poor and future generations,” according to official Vatican media.
“In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing. In response to them, we need to be creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as concrete expressions of the way of mercy,” he said.
The Pope made his comments in a message to mark the church’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which he instituted last year to highlight his ecological concerns.
‘Care for our common home’
The Christian faith encourages the practice of seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. The spiritual works include such acts as admonishing sinners and praying for others.
“We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness … But if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces,” the Pope said.
He suggested that “human life itself and everything it embraces” includes caring for the Earth.
“So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home,” he said.
“Global warming continues, due in part to human activity: 2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events,” the Pope added.
“Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact,” he said.
On Thursday the Pope tweeted, “God gave us the earth ‘to till and to keep’ in a balanced and respectful way.”
In June last year, the Pope issued a stern encyclical on the environment, slamming a slew of energy-guzzling modern trends including the heedless worship of technology, our addiction to fossil fuels and compulsive consumerism.
He said then that humanity’s “reckless” behavior had pushed the planet to a perilous “breaking point,” adding that “doomsday predictions” could not “be met with irony or disdain.”