Photo: Vatican News

Pope Francis’ 5 Rs for a Jubilee of the Earth

Michelle Tan

In his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Sept 1, the first day of the ecumenical Season of Creation which ends on Oct 4, the feast day of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis has invited all Christians to renew their faith in the God of creation, and to join in prayer and work for the care of our common home.

He is delighted that the theme of this year’s Season of Creation, “Jubilee for the Earth”, was chosen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which was first celebrated in 1970 to raise people’s awareness and to transform public attitudes about environmental issues.

“In the Holy Scriptures,” he said, “a Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.”


The Holy Father explained that it is a time of grace to remember the interconnectedness of our relationships “with God the Creator, with our brothers and sisters as members of a common family, and with all of God’s creatures within our common home.” Quoting from his landmark encyclical Laudato si’ (LS), he said, “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.” (LS, 92)


Pope Francis said that during a Jubilee, we must repent and return to God. “We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life.” Forgetting that we are members of Creation, and not its masters, our “competitive scramble” and “rampant greed and consumption” has led to “disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable” : we must heed this “wake-up call.”


“Creation is groaning!” wrote the Pope. A Jubilee is the time for us to rest from our labour, stop consuming, and let the Earth rest and recover from our pushing it beyond its limits. He said that the current pandemic has brought us to a “crossroads” where we must “use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are lifegiving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.”


The Pope continued, “A Jubilee is a time to restore the original harmony of creation and to heal strained human relationships,” whether on the individual, societal or international levels. “Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency.” He called for all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Nov 2020 in Glasgow UK, and urged the international community to work together to restore the “unprecedented loss of species and degradation of ecosystems” at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China in May 2021. Pope Francis said it is also time for “restorative justice” when vulnerable indigenous populations and countries desperate for economic development must be protected from exploitation by multinational “corporate misconduct” that is a “new version of colonialism.”


Notwithstanding the previous 4Rs, “in the biblical tradition, a Jubilee is a joyous occasion” and a cause for joy. He rejoiced that the Holy Spirit is moving individuals, especially young people, and communities around the world, including faith communities, to respond to the current ecological crisis by “coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.” And he rejoiced that many initiatives on the local and global levels are being inspired this year, the 5th Anniversary of Laudato si.’

Pope Francis concluded his Message with the invitation: “Let us all rejoice that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word ‘became flesh and lived among us’ (John 1:14) and which is constantly being renewed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”