By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is calling for a prompt, urgent and lasting action to protect the world’s rainforests saying their rapid destruction is not only an environmental crisis but also a social and above all an ethical one.
“We all recognize how important forests are for the whole world and indeed for the very future of humanity: they are the world’s most reliable renewable resource and are essential for integral human development,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Monday.
He was addressing a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on “Multilateral Action in Favour of the Protection of Rainforests”.
He stressed the need for educating people on the crucial importance of rainforests and their protection at a time of increasing urbanization, where their irreplaceable importance is often taken for granted and underestimated.
Integral ecology and development
Cardinal Parolin noted that “great human suffering arises from the wanton destruction of forests”, whose impact falls mainly on those who depend on forests for their home, livelihood, cultural heritage and social structures.
“Care for our common home, and care for our brothers and sisters in that home,” he insisted,
“must go together.” What is needed he said is an “integral ecology and integral development”, that balances the responsible use of forests for economic and social development with protecting and preserving them for the good of those who depend on and care for them, and for the good of humanity and future generations.
Any decision to improve the management of our forests, he said, must include the full and meaningful participation of those whose rights, values and lives will be most impacted.
Cardinal Parolin spoke about the upcoming Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, convoked by the Pope in the Vatican. He said it will focus principally on the ecclesial and pastoral challenges of the area, with particular attention to indigenous peoples living there and to the human, ecological, social and economic issues that are impacting the region and humanity.
In this regard, he noted that several other important ecosystems and vast biomes, such as the Congo Basin, the rainforests in Southeast Asia, as well as national forests and vegetation covers, also face serious threats.
Combatting poverty helps protect forests
The Vatican Secretary of State recalled Pope Francis’ recent visit to Madagascar, which has lost 21 percent of its forests since 2001. Addressing authorities, the Pope spoke about protecting forests as part of integral development and care for our common home.
Noting that several destructive activities are reluctantly done by poor inhabitants to ensure their survival, the Pope called for protecting the environment, by creating jobs to help these inhabitants emerge from poverty.
Cardinal Parolin said that strategies to address the destruction of our forests without delay demand an integrated, multilateral approach that combats poverty and restores dignity to the excluded.