Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina 

By Amedeo Lomonaco

Aug 1 2023

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development speaks at the 4th International Congress on the Care of Creation held in Lisbon, Portugal. He underscores the urgent need for “transitioning from a fossil-fuel economy to a clean-energy economy.”

“Youth commitment to integral ecology. Lifestyles for a new humanity” is theme of the 4th International Congress on the Care of Creation taking place on 31 July at Lisbon’s Universidade Católica Portuguesa. The one-day conference on the eve of the 38th World Youth Day is taking place in the capital of Portugal where young people from around the world are arriving. 

The conference marks an opportunity to meet and hear from various experts on five areas regarding human life: economics, education and family life, natural resources, politics, and technology. A new element of this meeting compared to past encounters is the presence of virtual spaces using the immersive technology of the metaverse. The work will conclude with a final document signed by the young people participating consisting of the outcome of the discussions and a groundwork for further future action and reflection.

Integral ecology at the service of all

Several entities are collaborating in the organisation of the congress, including the John Paul II Foundation for Youth; the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; the World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 Foundation; the Universidade Católica Portuguesa hosting the event; the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and its “Alta Scuola per l’Ambiente;” the Laudato Si’ Movement; The Economy of Francesco and the Magis Foundation; and the patronage of the General Secretariat of the Synod; the Embassies of Portugal and the Principality of Monaco to the Holy See.

On behalf of and representing the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, co-organiser of the conference, the event is attended by Tebaldo Vinciguerra, coordinator of the panel on natural resources, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect, who gave an address entitled, “The Theological Significance of Integral Ecology that is at the Service of every Person, particularly the most Vulnerable.”

A new geological epoch

Cardinal Czerny first looked at the new geological epoch of today, called the anthropocene, which has brought about “a staggering turning point in the history of our planet.” Human beings, Cardinal Czerny recalled, have significantly altered all planetary systems: the atmosphere, oceans, continents and ecosystems. What is unprecedented in our time is the combination of various crises, including the ecological crisis, cultural wars, the plight of hundreds of millions of poor people and refugees, and the digital age, with its opportunities and pitfalls.

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development went on to emphasise that in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’, he urges us to take into account all aspects of the global crisis linked to climate change and to reflect, in particular, on the cornerstones of an “integral ecology for a new humanity.”

Young people demand change

Cardinal Czerny pointed out the focal point of the encyclical on the care of our common home: “Pope Francis tells us, simply and forcefully, that humanity has to change, and even more so, to convert.” In the document, he added, the Pope also examines the role of the new generations: “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”

We must also pay more and more attention to the interconnections between the different elements that make up the world, he noted, and on which depends the “delicate balance that makes our survival and that of all living species possible.” This model capable of balancing these interconnections is inspired by Laudato si’ which “affirms the irreplaceable human role in the care of the common home.”

A new economy

Cardinal Czerny also offered some concrete actions to authentically promote an integral ecology. The main objective is to achieve, through a sustainable transition, the goal of zero emissions by the middle of this century. There must be a rapid transition from “a fossil-fuel economy to a clean-energy economy.” To achieve this goal, the Cardinal explained one must stop deforestation, “especially in waterhseds of global importance like the Amazon and the Congo.” One must “protect ocean shorelines from erosion,” “protect biodiversity,” and “halt ecosystem degradation.”

The economy and finance must also not be driven by “a frantic pursuit of profit.” And, above all, “a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society” must be promoted. “Integral ecology”, as the encyclical Laudato si’ states, requires “willingness to contemplate the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us” and “to honestly examine our commitments and lifestyle, to develop a serene harmony with creation.”

Following in the path of Saint Francis

To promote an integral ecology, Cardinal Czerny finally pointed to a guide. A role model mentioned often by Pope Francis: “Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.” The Saint of Assisi shows us “how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” – Vatican News