A new pope was elected yesterday, Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. He has taken the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226), patron saint of animals, the environment, of Italy, of merchants and stowaways. A papal predecessor, Pope John Paul II, declared St. Francis to be the Patron of Ecology on November 29, 1979. Later, during the World Environment Day 1982, John Paul II stated that St. Francis’ love for all creation was a reminder for contemporary Catholics “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”
Francis of Assisi is also known as having written an ode to nature and God, the Canticle of the Sun (1224), one of the first pieces of literature in the Italian language. Here, an excerpt in English translation:
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.