Brother Sun, Sister Moon

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St. Peter's BasilicaSource: Mazur/catholicfaith.org.uk

St. Peter’s Basilica
Source: Mazur/catholicfaith.org.uk

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.

St. Francis’s vision of a seraph, fresco by Giotto; in the Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi, Italy Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

St. Francis’s vision of a seraph, fresco by Giotto; in the Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi, Italy
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

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.

Vatican deputy spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, explaining how St. Francis inspired the name of Pope Francis, said “Francis of Assisi is a great, great figure in the church but known especially for connecting with fellow Christians and many people outside the Christian family,” Rosica said. Not much said about St. Francis’ admiration of nature, but perhaps that will come.
Below are two illustrations. The top illustration shows the global distribution of the Catholic population as of 2010, the lower illustration shows environmental impact according to a 2010 study. Some, though by no means all, of the most heavily impacted areas also have a high Catholic population (i.e. over 50%), particularly in South America.
It will be interesting to see how Pope Francis leads his flock when it comes to the environment.
Distribution of Catholic population globally

Distribution of Catholic population globally 2010 Source: Wikipedia

Relative rank of countries by proportional and absolute environmental impact: Proportional environmental impact (179 countries; top panel) and absolute environmental impact rank (171 countries; bottom panel) (darker grey = higher impact) out of 228 countries considered are shown. Environmental impact ranks (proportional and absolute) combine ranks for natural forest lost, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and proportion of threatened species (see text for details). The worst 20 countries for each ranking are shown. Source: PLOS-One

Relative rank of countries by proportional and absolute environmental impact: Proportional environmental impact (179 countries; top panel) and absolute environmental impact rank (171 countries; bottom panel) (darker grey = higher impact) out of 228 countries considered are shown. Environmental impact ranks (proportional and absolute) combine ranks for natural forest lost, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and proportion of threatened species (see text for details). The worst 20 countries for each ranking are shown. Source: PLOS-One

More:
PLOS-One study: Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries, by C. Bradshaw, X. Giam, N. Sodhi (Univ. of 2010)

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