In 2001, Pope John Paul II named St Frances of Assisi the patron saint of ecology.

Pope John Paul II has given two very powerful phrases to the church: ecological conversion and ecological vocation. They help make environmental concerns integral to Catholic faith. These phrases flagged a new era in the Christian journey and a new task for Catholic leadership. [1]

The language of ecology resonates easily with Catholics: it includes words like community, mutuality, inter-connectedness, regeneration, transformation. Using words such as ‘rainforest’ instead of ‘jungle’, or ‘wetlands’ instead of ‘swamps’, has helped many people become environmentally aware. Likewise, learning about the basic mechanisms which alter the pace of climate change – thresholds, tipping points, positive feedbacks, albedo effect, runaway climate change – helps us to weigh up arguments and prompt us into urgent action. Knowledge of these deepens our wisdom and courage to act.

In truth, two decades of Catholic environmental teaching must be respected. Pope Benedict XVII said in his 2008 World Day of Peace Message:

The family needs a home … For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility … humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. [2]

Creation and Redemption, earthly life and eternal life, responsibility for creation and responsibility for others and for the future – should be juxtaposed. [3]

In praying her Magnificat and honouring her role as Mother, Mary can help lead Catholics to respect the planet that nurtures us all, and to rightly call it mother Earth. [4]

[1] General Audience 17 Jan 2001; and Message to UN Summit on Sustainable Development Aug

[2] Nos 8–9.

[3] Benedict XVI August 6, Bressanone; Reported 20 August 2008 by

[4] John Paul II: ‘Nature itself, from being ‘mater’ (mother), is now reduced to being ‘matter’, and is subjected to every kind of manipulation’.