During a gathering with more than 400 priests in the Italian region of Tirol on Wednesday, the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said Christianity has always encouraged care for the environment based on the conversion of the human person.
During the closed-door meeting at the Cathedral of Bressanone, the Pope spent over an hour responding to six questions posed by the priests from the region. Some of the Pope’s responses were later summarized for reporters by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombari.
He said that when asked about the Catholic view on protecting the environment, Benedict XVI stressed that “God, as Creator, cannot be excluded from history.”
Pope Benedict also pointed out that “there is not always sufficient emphasis on the relationship between the teaching of the Church on redemption and creation. This is an issue in which Catholics can practice their faith, giving examples with lifestyles respectful of the environment,” Father Lombardi said, summarizing the Pope’s response.
The Pope believes that those who are conscious of the fact that God has entrusted man with creation have a solid foundation for respecting the environment, Father Lombardi explained. “But if one denies God, the world is reduced to the material, and in a world closed in on its materialism, it is easier for the human being to make himself the dictator of all other creatures and of nature,” he said.
As examples of the Christian view of man’s relationship with creation, the Pope pointed to St. Paul and medieval monarchism and in general Christian tradition, in which spiritualities sensitive to the environment such as that of the Franciscans have always existed.
Responding later to a question about administering the sacraments to persons without a solid formation in the faith—especially in the case of parents who request baptism for their children—Father Lombardi said that Benedict XVI responded that “when he was younger he was stricter and thought that it was a problem to administer the sacraments so widely. With time, the Pope said, ‘I understood it was necessary to follow the way of the Lord and be open to the mercy that embraces those who only have a hint of faith as well’.”
“Even if we can only see a small flame of desire for communion with the Church, there is reason to go in that direction,” he explained.