Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis I - an historic day for religion...AND the environment?!

Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment
Today's election of Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope has already proven to be an historic moment for the world's Catholics. I'm hopeful for an entirely different reason. I'm hopeful because, although he has not yet revealed why he chose it, he took the name Pope Francis I.

Francis of Assisi, born to a wealthy cloth merchant, eventually forsook the worldly (consumeristic) life to pursue a life a poverty and service to God. But he had a particular fondness for and connection with animals and the natural fact was enraptured enthralled with it. Though he was never ordained into the Catholic priesthood, he is perhaps the most venerated of all religious figures and is today known as the Patron Saint of Animals, the Environment, and Ecology.

Side bar: I had largely forgotten about it, but as a child I was incredibly moved by a movie. Being raised in a religious hippie commune for several of my early years, we did not have much access to television or radio. So when us children DID get to watch a movie, it was a significant moment for us. And one particular movie - Brother Sun Sister Moon - really resonated with me. Even (especially?) now, remembering back to watching that movie and learning more about the story of St. Francis of Assisi, I am moved to my core. Not so much by the movie, but by his story. This image (below) captures it particularly well for me. In complete vulnerability, there is this sense of amazing glory, fullness and strength...and he is offering himself to and embracing the amazing world - God's Creation - around him. But I digress...
1972's Brother Sun, Sister Moon movie cover
Religious leaders hold tremendous influence with people of faith regarding perspectives and attitudes about the environment. Recognizing this, a number of scientists have attempted to engage religious leaders in developing and framing science and sustainability messages that resonate with people of various religious backgrounds by convincing them of the direct applicability of environmental issues to questions of faith (journal examples [sadly behind paywalls] here, here, here and here). Among the more notable examples is the work from world-renowned ecologist E. O. Wilson (examples here and here).
A few Twitter links from today's historic Papal election.
Assuming the Pope takes up and fully embraces his namesake, I'm hopeful that a new era of wise environmental stewardship, perhaps initiated and championed by the roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, may be just around the corner. Today's election results seem like a significant event. Maybe it will even prove to be a watershed moment in the move toward a more environmentally-minded consciousness. Today has certainly proven historic for the world's Catholics. But will today also prove to be an historic day for our planet? Only time will tell...but I'm hopeful.

Read the Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Francis of Assisi

No comments:

Post a Comment