Nature must not be valued above man, Pope warns

Pope Benedict XVI made his message for World Day for Peace public on Tuesday morning in preparation for its observation on January 1, 2010.  In his message, he calls for global solidarity in action to provide for the world's needs and to protect the environment. However, the Holy Father also stresses that we must be continually aware of the value of people over and above all other living things.

An attitude of "global solidarity" is essential in shaping our efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth's resources, writes the Pontiff, emphasizing that  this is important "particularly today, when there is an increasingly clear link between combating environmental degradation and promoting integral human development."

The "real motivation" to protect nature and ensure the future of humanity must be based on the "quest for authentic worldwide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good," he explains.

Reflecting on the specific role of the Church in this battle, Pope Benedict says that its duty is "towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction."

"Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others."

To be successful in this venture, we must be "trained in love of neighbor and respect for nature," continues Pope Benedict.

However, he underscores, "A correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by 'absolutizing' nature or by considering it more important than the human person."

We must not succumb to the "notions of the environment inspired by eco-centrism and bio-centrism" because these "eliminate the difference of identity and value between the human person and other living things," the Pontiff warns in his message.

Responding to the attitudes of some environmental groups, Pope Benedict cautions against assuming an "egalitarian vision of the 'dignity' of all living creatures," since this mentality causes the  "distinctiveness and superior role of human beings" in the world to cease carrying weight.

This attitude, he warns, can "also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms."

The Holy Father concludes his World Day of Peace message by reiterating the theme "if you want to cultivate peace, protect creation" and an affirmation that "the quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation."

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