Pope: Use pandemic to give the environment a vital "rest"

Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has shown how the Earth can recover “if we allow it to rest” and must spur people to adopt simpler lifestyles to help the planet

“In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles,” Francis said in a written message.

“Already we can see how the Earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared,” he wrote. “The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads.”

Until now, “constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world,” the pope said, adding, “Creation is groaning.”

People must be aware of their rightful place in nature, never thinking themselves masters of what Francis described as the “interconnected web of life.”

Disintegrating biodiversity, climate disasters and the “unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and the vulnerable” amount to a “wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption,” the pope wrote.

Francis hailed “our indigenous brothers and sisters who live in harmony with the land and its multiple forms of life.” He urged protection for these communities from companies, particularly multinational ones, which carry out “destructive extraction” of such resources as fossil fuels, minerals and timber.

Citing the medical, social and economic crises triggered by the pandemic, Francis said it was “time for restorative justice.”

“We also need to ensure that the recovery packages being developed and deployed at global, regional and national levels must be regeneration packages," Francis said, without naming any particular nations or regions.

The pontiff issued his appeal on Tuesday to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an annual occasion that was established for Christians in the wake of the encyclical Laudato Si'.

Francis invited all nations to “adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions” harming the environment.