• on September 2, 2016

New Work Of Mercy: Show Mercy To Our Common Home

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‘It’s not every day that you have a new work of mercy in the Catholic
Church!’ That was how the new director of the Vatican press office,
American Greg Burke introduced the briefing, focused on the papal message
entitled ‘Show Mercy to our Common Home’.

Since biblical times, Christians have been called to carry out 6 acts of
mercy, listed in St Matthew’s Gospel – giving food and drink to the hungry
and thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick
and the prisoners – with a 7th one, burying the dead, added in medieval
times.

Now the new papal message adds an eighth one to that list and, as Terence
Ward, author of ‘The Guardian of Mercy’ pointed out, it could be seen as
the most significant of them all…

“Caring for our Common Home. Groundbreaking and visionary, ecumenical and
ecological. One could argue that this is the highest work of mercy because
it includes all the others, a modern work of mercy for our modern epoch.”

As Bishop Brian Farrell explained, it’s an issue around which there is broad
ecumenical agreement

throughout
the Christian world, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and other
Orthodox leaders pioneering many groundbreaking initiatives to raise
awareness about critical ecological concerns.

But what exactly does this first every papal message for the day of prayer
for creation call for? Not surprisingly, mercy is the key to unlocking that
‘ecological conversion’ of our hearts that Pope John Paul first called for
a quarter of a century ago. As Cardinal Turkson explained, it’s a step by
step process which begins by recognizing the harm we have already done
through our selfish, irresponsible and greedy behavior..

“The first step in this process is to humbly acknowledge the harm we are
doing to the earth through pollution, the scandalous destruction of
ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, and the spectre of climate
change—which seems nearer and more dangerous with each passing year. And to
realize that when we hurt the earth, we also hurt the poor, whom God loves
without limit”

After acknowledging the harm done and confessing our sins, we are then
called to change our lives, beginning with the small changes that can lower
our own carbon footprint, while also advocating for an economic and
political system that is just and sustainable, rather than focused on short
term financial and electoral gains.

Much of the Pope’s appeal to all people of good will was already spelt out
a year ago in his groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si’ but, as Cardinal
Turkson asked at the end of the briefing, how many of us are ready and
willing to respond to the challenges that document contained?

“It should not be a document to be read, but […] a document with practical
implications that we should all try to implement and to practice”.
(from Vatican Radio)

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