Vatican Radio is reporting that the Pope made the comments to more than 7,000 Italian high school students who are members of the Sister Nature foundation, which is promoted by the Franciscan community in Assisi.
After reminding them that St. Francis of Assisi was declared the patron saint of the ecology in 1979 by Pope John Paul II, he exhorted them to fully respect the environment.
"Dear friends, the Church, noting with appreciation the most important research and scientific discoveries, has never ceased to recall that respect for the Creator’s imprint in all creation, leads to a better understanding of our true and deepest human identity," he said.
"If ... in his work, man forgets he is God’s collaborator, then he can cause violence and damage to creation which always has a negative impact on humans, as we have seen, unfortunately, on several occasions. Today more than ever, it has becomes clear that respect for the environment cannot forget the recognition of the value of the human person and its inviolability at every stage and in every condition of life. Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one, but both can grow and find their right measure if we respect in the human being and in nature the Creator and his creation."
He went on to address teachers and authorities, emphasizing the importance of education in the field of ecology. " . . .(I)t has become apparent that there will be no good future for humanity on earth if we do not educate everyone to a more responsible way of life for creation. And this style is learned first at home and in school."
He concluded by encouraging parents, school administrators and teachers to have a "constant commitment" to educating youth in the field of ecology.
The Pope's comments were made on the same day that the United Nations convened a Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, where nations will attempt to reach a global agreement on how to reduce carbon emissions.
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