Hundreds of thousands of worshipers gathered in the Vatican Tuesday morning to celebrate Pope Francis’ inaugural mass, applauding as he instructed the world’s dignitaries, clergy and Catholic lay people to work for the world’s most vulnerable people and protect the environment. People from all around the world and all walks of life attended the new Pope’s first mass including 132 formal delegations. Pope Francis stressed the environment as an individual, political, economic and social responsibility.
Formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Francis was selected for the job by 114 other cardinals last week followed former pope Benedict XVI’s surprise retirement.
It is noteworthy that the new Pope has taken the name Francis, derived from St. Francis of Assisi, who was well known for his love of animals, nature and the environment. Francis preached that it was the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves. On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis to be the Patron of Ecology.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco (“the Frenchman”) by his father. St. Francis was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment
On World Environment Day in 1982, Pope John Paul II said that St. Francis’ love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”
The same Pope wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990, the saint of Assisi “offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation…” He went on to make the point that St Francis: “As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.”
Pope John Paul II also said, “It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of ‘fraternity’ with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created.”
It is therefore fitting that the new Pope has adopted the name Francis and used his inaugural homily in St. Peter’s Square to give a clear message of his vision for the church focused on the environment and the poor.
Each time the Pope discussed the need to protect the environment, the crowd in attendance broke into applause. He called on the crowd to take up the vocation of being a protector. “It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis’ message urged the worlds world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and its clergy to get involved in the world’s environmental problems.
Pope Francis is elaborating on Pope Benedict’s environmental concerns. In his traditional New Year’s address Pope Benedict called on people to change their lifestyles to save the planet, saying environmental responsibility was essential for global peace. The former pope said action at a personal and community level was important to safeguard the environment.
“Nevertheless, in this moment, I would like to underline the importance of the choices of individuals, families and local administrations in preserving the environment…An objective shared by all, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of overseeing the earth’s natural resources with justice and wisdom,” Pope Benedict said.
The former pope, also said “ecological responsibility” should be taught as part of the education syllabus.
John Paul also elucidated his ecological concerns calling on rich nations to acknowledge responsibility for the environmental crisis and shed consumerism.
The Vatican’s move towards environmentalism has culminated in the election of Pope Francis.