The world stems from the creative power of God in which people act as God’s stewards and collaborators. Humanity maintains a fusional relationship with the earth so if we degrade nature, we attack ourselves. A person cannot perceive their relationship to the earth in terms of domination, but only in terms of diakonia (service)

For the pope, the world is neither the product of humans nor the fruit of chance, but a work stemming from the creative power of God in which people act as God’s stewards and collaborators.  It is not possible to live one’s Christian faith while omitting one’s obligations towards “our sister and mother earth”. Saints such as Francis of Assisi remind us that the more our hearts listen to God, the more sensitive we become to the secret language of nature. Such a person cannot perceive their relationship to the earth in terms of domination, but only in terms of diakonia (service).  In this regard, Pope Francis emphasizes in Laudato si’ that our responsibility is “to cultivate and to protect the garden of the world”.

La Croix, May 26, 2020, “Africa can contribute to a theology of ecology”: A conversation with the rector of one of the world’s largest churches by Guy Aimé Eblotié, Ivory Coast

Father Franck Allatin, rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro.

Pope Francis has urged people all over the world to undergo an “ecological conversion”.

And the Vatican’s office on integral human development has taken up the challenge by organizing a series of initiatives over the next twelve months.

The efforts are part of the special “Laudato si’ Anniversary Year” that the pope launched last Sunday to mark the fifth anniversary of his encyclical of the same name — “Blessed by You, Lord.”

Father Franck Allatin, rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, in the center of the Ivory Coast, says Catholics in Africa need to do more to make “care of our common home” a pastoral priority.

We propose again his thoughts on the pope’s encyclical, which he shared with La Croix Africa‘s Guy Aimé Eblotié in 2018.

La Croix Africa: How do you place Laudato si’ within the worldwide ecological movement?

Father Franck Allatin: At the level of describing the situation and the urgency of action in favor of our planet, yes, the message of Laudato si’ echoes that of the ecological movements.

The proof of this is that the pope referred to the studies and work of these movements in drawing up his encyclical.

The difference lies in the approach and paradigms underlying Pope Francis’ reflections on the safeguarding of our “common home”.

In keeping with the Christian tradition, the pope’s encyclical analyses the ecological crisis within the theology of creation.

For the pope, the world is neither the product of humans nor the fruit of chance, but a work stemming from the creative power of God in which people act as God’s stewards and collaborators.

In fact, Pope Francis’ approach “transcends” the categories of mathematics and biology and integrates anthropology.

In truth, there is a correlation between ecology and anthropology insofar as the relationship of people to their environment is influenced by the perception that humans have their place in the universe.

This social encyclical on ecology is, therefore, not exclusively a declaration for the safeguarding of the earth. It’s really about saving humanity and the earth.

La Croix Africa: In what way is respect for nature part of the requirements of the Christian faith?

Biblical creation theology teaches that the first human, Adam, came from the earth. Humanity, therefore, maintains a fusional relationship with the earth so if we degrade nature, we indirectly attack our own nature.

A truly fulfilled existence is at the crossroads of three relationships: the relationship with God, with one’s neighbor and with the earth.

It is not possible to live one’s Christian faith while omitting one’s obligations towards “our sister and mother earth”.

Saints such as Francis of Assisi remind us that the more our hearts listen to God, the more sensitive we become to the secret language of nature.

Such a person cannot perceive their relationship to the earth in terms of domination, but only in terms of diakonia (service).

In this regard, Pope Francis emphasizes in Laudato si’ that our responsibility is “to cultivate and to protect the garden of the world”.

La Croix Africa: How can the Church of Africa appropriate the pope’s message on integral ecology?

The Church in Africa needs to speak out more on the state of our planet.

Unfortunately, environmental issues are not yet an important part of our diocesan pastoral activities in Africa.

While our traditional African cultures were very concerned about respecting the balance between people and their environment, paradoxically this aspect of our traditions — which also had a religious dimension — was not sufficiently brought out in the expression of our Christian faith.

There is, therefore, a vast field of research in the area of inculturation which could be an important contribution from Africa to a theology of ecology.

The Church itself must set an example.

This can range from the choice of material in the construction of religious buildings to the use of environmentally friendly sources of energy.

I must confess that at the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, there has not yet been any real reflection on this subject.

However, the basilica’s future accommodation center, which is already in the design phase, incorporates elements related to biodiversity and the use of renewable energy sources.

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