Pope Francis, a green Pope?
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
(Author’s Note: This article was prepared just a few days after the election of Pope Francis, and was published in the Visayan Daily Star on 18 March 2013. I am posting it here on the occasion of Time’s declaration of Pope Francis as the “Person of the Year”).
Newsfeeds from various media institutions around the world continue to feature the newly elected leader of about 1.2 billion Catholics globally. Elected early morning on Thursday (Philippine time), the new Pontiff preferred to be called Francis, a name inspired from Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known to have waived his wealth and made preferential option to work for and be with the poor. Before his assumption as the new successor of Saint Peter’s throne, Pope Francis was the Archbishop of Argentina by the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
On his first audience with media over the weekend in Vatican, Pope Francis said, “That is how the name came into my heart, Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation. These days we do not have a very good relations with creation, do we?” By saying “loves and protects creation”, are we also expecting the Holy See as the Francis of Assisi of our times? Saint Francis is considered as the Patron Saint of Nature because of his extra ordinary love for animals.
Several miracles attributed to Saint Francis have something to do with nature. The article of Pastor Richard Edmonds posted at http://www.stfrancispetmedals.com claims there was an instance when “Francis walked by a tree filled with birds and begged them to listen to the word of God.” The story further quoted Francis to have said: “My brothers, birds, you should praise your Creator very much and always love him; he gave you feathers to clothe you, wings so that you can fly, and whatever else was necessary for you. God made you noble among his creatures and he gave you a home in the purity of the air; though you neither sow nor reap, he nevertheless protects and governs you without any solicitude on your part”. As narrated in the posted article, the companions of Francis reported “that the birds stretched their necks and extended their wings as Francis walked among them touching and blessing them”.
The second story mentioned in the same article by Edmonds is about the wolf that was reportedly terrifying the city of Gubbio near Assisi. “Having compassion for the frightened residents, Francis went up to the hills to find the wolf”, the article claimed. Edmonds further narrated in his online article that “Walking alone because all of his companions had fled in fear, Francis eventually found the wolf, made the sign of the cross, and instructed the wolf to come to him and hurt no one”.
Francis reportedly said to the wolf: “Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil. All these people accuse you and curse you. But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people”. The story further elaborated that “Francis led the wolf into town. Surrounded by the startled citizens, he made a pact between them and the wolf. He explained that the wolf had terrorized the people because he was hungry. He told the people to feed the wolf regularly and the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks”.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged Pope Benedict to prioritize environment concerns on his papal agenda. CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the care for creation is a very serious concern for the church that the administration of Pope Francis should deal with. Palma was quoted in CBCP online news saying, “We really should give focus on this because we take for granted the many blessing of the Lord only to realize that we had been remiss.”
It can be recalled that in the middle of the 80s the CBCF also issued a pastoral letter on the state of our environment that somehow helped spark environmentalism in the Philippines. If I will not be mistaken, the document was entitled “Living Lightly Over the Earth”, which presented a bleak picture of the environment and the deteriorating condition of our natural resources. It called for all the faithful to do something in caring and protecting God’s wonderful creations.
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