Cardinal Michael Czerny is urging “ecological conversion” in keeping with Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, Laudato si’, on responsible stewardship of the created order, and as an integral part of any adequate work of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Christian spirituality,” Cardinal Czerny told the Italian bishops’ Avvenire newspaper, “helps motivate the necessary personal, social, and political changes, spurring us to develop a [sense of] responsibility toward creation, our common home.” Czerny heads the section for migrants and refugees at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development and has taken a leading role in the promotion of the stewardship encyclical.

Cardinal Czerny was speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary – this coming Sunday, May 24 – of the teaching document, which sought to harness the philosophical and theological insights of several recent pontiffs including Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and put them in a programmatic pastoral register.

Special events throughout the week – – are planned to mark the anniversary, the start of a year of programmes and initiatives to highlight the themes of Pope Francis’s encyclical and their practical applications in the world, which are now unfolding within the context of a global public health emergency.

“Environmental degradation probably contributed to the spread of the virus,” Czerny said. “However, our awareness must go much deeper,” he continued, “to the point of grasping the core of the anti-values that have fueled yesterday’s hypercompetitive and consumerist civilization.”

“The ‘new world’ after COVID must be better,” Cardinal Czerny went on to say. “It must also heal from the diseases of self-destruction, injustice, indifference. Laudato si’ shows us the way to be restored: that inclusive and sustainable development, which deserves to be called ‘integral’.”

Cardinal Czerny mpted that Laudato si’ proposes dialogue as a necessary foundation for any kind of effective action. “The only approach for post-COVID regeneration is dialogue,” he said, “which means involving all parties – this is the synodal method.”

The ecological was also one of the four conversions to which the final document of the recent special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon called, along with the pastoral, cultural, and synodal.

One of the four “dreams” around which Pope Francis organised his post-Synodal exhortation – an official encouragement for the whole Church published after the assembly – was the ecological. “The Lord, who is the first to care for us,” wrote Pope Francis at the start of the third chapter of the exhortation, Querida Amazonia, “teaches us to care for our brothers and sisters and the environment which he daily gives us,” adding that care for persons is of a piece with care for the created order.

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