Cardinal joins discussion on creation with faith leaders

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Care of God’s creation is so integral to the teachings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that it’s difficult to understand how members of those religious traditions could not be environmentalists, according to panelists in a Feb. 23 online discussion celebrating the publication of the “Ecumenical and Interreligious Guidebook: Care for Our Home.”

The book was published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers and Catholic Climate Covenant “with the specific purpose of bringing the richness of Catholic tradition on care for our common home into interreligious and ecumenical dialogue,” said Father Walter Kedjierski, the executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Kedjierski moderated the discussion, which included Cardinal Cupich, who co-chairs the USCCB’s national Catholic-Muslim dialogue; Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland and the international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee; and Imam Saffet Abid Catovic, a long-time American Muslim community organizer, activist and environmental leader.

“We hear in our own Scriptures and tradition from the very beginning how God breathed life into all that is and how God found creation to be good,” Cardinal Cupich said. “That creation is good is foundational for us.”

Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” discussed the intertwined relationships between people and God, people and their neighbors and people and the environment, which is God’s creation, the cardinal said.

“From the very beginning we have had this relationship of faith and God’s creation,” he said. “Our faith teaches that we have responsibility to care for the gifts which God has given us. … It’s part of the DNA of our belief that the care of creation is something that is so very central.”

Catovic pointed to 2015 as the year in which not only Laudato Si’ was published, but also the year in which Islamic and Buddhist statements on the need to care for creation were issued in the months leading up to the Paris Climate Agreement, which set standards for trying to limit climate change.

“I think ‘Laudato Si’’ has provided all of us a way by which we can raise our voices and provides for the moral framing and spiritual guidance we need during this time of critical crisis,” Catovic said.

Rosen also praised “Laudato Si’, and included Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, who spoke of a “human ecology,” as Catholic leaders who advocated for care for the environment.

From a Jewish perspective, Rosen said, a sin against creation is a sin against God.

“We see our natural environment as a creation, that is to say, as the work of a Creator,” Rosen said. “How we relate to our environment is how we relate to God. Any abuse of any aspect of the natural world is an abuse of the Divine.”

“I cannot for the life of me understand how any religious person could not be an environmentalist,” he continued.

Cardinal Cupich said the verse of Genesis (1:26) in which God gives humans “dominion” over the animals has too often been misconstrued to mean that humans can exploit creation for their own ends.

“While it is true that people of faith would have a difficult time not being environmentalists, there are people who think of themselves as people of faith but reinterpret the tradition so that it is more in tune with a libertarian understanding of life and the economy,” the cardinal said. “It is really up to us to challenge how many believing people, faith-filled people, have bought into a libertarian notion of the world and the economy for their own profit, not counting the consequences. That’s a real challenge for us.”

Catovic suggested that religious leaders could remind people that all of creation worships God, and therefore all of creation is a house of worship.

“The earth is a place of prayer, a place of worship,” he said. “When I am in a mosque, people bring to that place a certain sense of responsibility: ‘I have to behave myself. I have to help my fellow parishioners.’ If we were to bring this type of mentality into the greater mosque, the greater house of worship of God, we would know, ‘I should not attack the house of God.’”



  • laudato si
  • interreligious dialogue

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