World has to confront oceans 'littered by fields of floating plastic,' says Pope Francis

(Photo: Peter K Burian (CC-BY-SA))Season of the Creation started on Sept. 1, 2018 with an Ecumenical prayer in Assisi, Italy. P

Pope Francis has called for has called for urgent action to combat the "emergency" of plastics littering seas and oceans in a message centered on the "precious element" of water for the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

Global Christian leaders including Pope Francis, the head of the World Council of Churches, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation and the Ecumenical Patriarch issued statements for the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1.

"Sadly, all too often many efforts fail due to the lack of effective regulation and means of control, particularly with regard to the protection of marine areas beyond national confines," the Pope said.

"We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic," Francis wrote.

"Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency."

On Creation Day, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, released a joint statement on Creation Day, commemorated by the Orthodox Church since 1989 and broadened by Pope Francis in 2015.

In his message the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics said, "It must be acknowledged that we have not succeeded in responsibly protecting creation.L

"The environmental situation, both on the global level and in many specific places, cannot be considered satisfactory.

"Rightly, there is a growing sense of the need for a renewed and sound relationship between humanity and creation, and the conviction that only an authentic and integral vision of humanity will permit us to take better care of our planet for the benefit of present and future generations."

At the heart of Pope Francis' message for the fourth annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which the Church now celebrates in union with the Orthodox Church, is that vital resource, water.

Describing it as a precious element, the Pope underlined that "access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights."

He also drew attention to the fact that access for many people is either difficult or impossible.

Sept. 1 is the World Day of Prayer for Creation and the opening of the Season of Creation, meant to be a "spiritual walk" with various steps through the city of Saint Francis.

During the prayer service, top representatives of the world's Christian traditions will call the faithful to care for the Earth during the Season of Creation. They will also call for ambition at this December's UN climate negotiations in Poland.

In Assisi, Rev. Henrik Grape, coordinator of the World Council of Churches Working Group on Climate Change shared a reflection on Galatians 3:26-28.

The Assisi event opened an annual global celebration of prayer and action to protect the Earth, the Season of Creation.

The Season of Creation is supported by leaders of the world's major Christian denominations. It was observed with hundreds of hands-on events on six continents.

LWF General Secretary Martin Junge joins ecumenical call for Justice for Creation.

"I am very glad that as Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, Christians from many different denominations, we are coming together to jointly issue a call for justice for Creation."

"The declaration we issue today calls for something more profound than a technological or economic adaptation to mitigate the loss and damage of climate change," Junge said at the Ecumenical Prayer in Assisi on Sept. 1.

"What is needed is a metanoia; a faithful return to our deepest human identity in order to restore the right relationships for which we were created."

The WCC's general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said in a message, "Water is a gift of God, a gift of creation, and it is necessary for survival.

"We are called to be stewards of the resources of this world," Tveit noted. "Water is to be preserved, taken care of, and shared."

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