Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of the virtue of justice in a message for the upcoming World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
“God wants justice to reign; it is as essential to our life as God’s children, made in his likeness, as water is essential for our physical survival,” he said in the message, released May 25.
“God wants everyone to strive to be just in every situation, to live according to his laws and thus to enable life to flourish,” the pope continued. “When we ‘Seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33), maintaining a right relationship with God, humanity, and nature, then justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.”
Pope Francis established the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2015, to be celebrated every year on Sept. 1.
The ecumenical day of prayer is seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church and launches what is called the Season of Creation, celebrated every year from Sept. 1 through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
The theme of the 2023 Season of Creation is “Let Justice and Peace Flow.”
Pope Francis said in his message that the theme is inspired by the words of the prophet Amos: “Let justice flow on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
The pope’s message for the 2023 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was released during Laudato Si’ Week May 21–28.
Laudato Si’ Week 2023 marks the eighth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’, Francis’ landmark encyclical on the environment.
In his message on caring for creation, Pope Francis said the first step is the transformation of our hearts.
“This is essential for any other transformation to occur; it is that ‘ecological conversion’ which St. John Paul II encouraged us to embrace: the renewal of our relationship with creation so that we no longer see it as an object to be exploited but cherish it instead as a sacred gift from our Creator,” he said.
“Creation,” Francis continued, “refers both to God’s mysterious, magnificent act of creating this majestic, beautiful planet and universe out of nothing and to the continuing result of that act, which we experience as an inexhaustible gift.”
“During the liturgy and personal prayer in ‘the great cathedral of creation,’ let us recall the great Artist who creates such beauty and reflect on the mystery of that loving decision to create the cosmos,” he said.
Pope Francis also reflected on his visit to Canada in July of last year, especially a stop on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta, which is a place of pilgrimage for indigenous people.
The pope used the imagery of water throughout his message, including the idea of thinking about how to contribute “to the mighty river of justice and peace.”
One step he encouraged people to take is to change their lifestyles and to repent of their “ecological sins,” in the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
Francis invited people, with the help of God’s grace, to lower their waste production and consumption, to be mindful about their habits and economic decisions, to use resources with moderation and sobriety, to recycle, and to make greater use of sustainable options.
Regarding public policies, Pope Francis said world leaders participating in COP28, the U.N. climate change conference at the end of the year, “must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel.”
“Let us raise our voices to halt this injustice towards the poor and towards our children, who will bear the worst effects of climate change,” he said.
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