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Youth and the Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and Opportunities — Proceedings of the 2016 Vatican Youth Symposium

Youth and the Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and Opportunities — Proceedings of the 2016 Vatican Youth Symposium
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H E Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo | Youth Symposium 2016

Thank you. I am very hap­py to see all of you here. I think we need to do, as the Pope said “hac­er lio” (an Argen­tine say­ing which means some­thing close to “shake things up”), to be present in the future with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of our work, our stud­ies, and sol­i­dar­i­ty with the peo­ple. I want to sum­ma­rize the papal Encycli­cal, which is our inspi­ra­tion; but the very impor­tant thing that we have right now is a kind of syn­er­gy, the same spir­it, with the Unit­ed Nations. I want to speak about the spir­it of the Pope’s encycli­cal, and Jef­frey Sachs will speak about the spir­it of the UN and this project. I will begin with the spir­it of the Lauda­to Si’.

The mes­sage of the Encycli­cal Lauda­to Si’ can be sum­ma­rized in the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “We are called to be instru­ments of God our Father, so that our plan­et might be what he desired when he cre­at­ed it and cor­re­spond with his plan for peace, beau­ty and full­ness” (§ 53). This was, more or less, the idea of Fran­cis of Assisi when he said that we are “instru­ments of peace”, instru­ments of God to give peace, to try to give sal­va­tion for every­one, and espe­cial­ly for the poor.

The first thing is that we need to have an eco­log­i­cal con­ver­sion and this is a com­plete­ly new idea in the Mag­is­teri­um of the Church, because it is like an exten­sion of our respon­si­bil­i­ty towards the earth, not only with the humans –which was the pre­vi­ous idea of the Doc­trine of the Church. This is to say that we also have a respon­si­bil­i­ty in the devel­op­ment of the land and with all of the Cre­ation. Since we can have either neg­a­tive or pos­i­tive inter­ven­tion on it, we need to be respon­si­ble of our actions in rela­tion with the earth. And this is the great new idea. Eco means house in Greek and log­i­cal means to put order (in the house), so we should have an eco­log­i­cal con­ver­sion. This is a new exten­sion of the idea of our respon­si­bil­i­ty in the Social Doc­trine of the Church. But the Pope also has three cen­ters: the­ol­o­gy, nat­ur­al sci­ences and social sci­ences. These are the three points of the eco­log­i­cal conversion.

The the­o­log­i­cal point is very nice, because the Pope assumes the new ideas about evo­lu­tion, and not only explains the Cre­ation as depen­dent of God and that is the tra­di­tion­al sense because God cre­at­ed the Being and Life, but also in the sense of an end. We are cre­at­ed by God, but we are on a real­iza­tion, an evo­lu­tion, we are on a ful­fill­ment of this cre­ation. He takes a very nice text from St. Thomas Aquinas (a com­ment he makes to Aris­to­tle) that says: “What is nature? Nature is noth­ing oth­er than a cer­tain kind of art, name­ly God’s art, impressed upon things, where­by those things are moved to a deter­mi­nate end. It is as if a ship­builder were able to give tim­bers the where­with­al to move them­selves to take the form of a ship” (S. Th., In Phys. Arist., 8, II, 14)’ (LS §80). That is like if the things itself had the move­ment to form and to take the new end, that is just evo­lu­tion. So that is the the­ol­o­gy that the Pope uses to explain our respon­si­bil­i­ty with the Cre­ation, the gen­er­al idea about evo­lu­tion and that we are col­lab­o­ra­tors of this evo­lu­tion, of God’s plan, because we need to devel­op the poten­tial­i­ty of the land and the earth in rela­tion with His final­i­ty. This is, in syn­the­sis, his theology.

The adop­tion of the nat­ur­al sci­ences that the Pope takes is for the descrip­tion of the earth; the Bible has an expla­na­tion about the ori­gin. Cli­mate change and glob­al warm­ing is ter­mi­nol­o­gy that comes from the nat­ur­al sci­ences and we have here, in the Acad­e­my, three impor­tant peo­ple that were in the begin­ning of all of this, who denounced the ten­den­cy of glob­al warm­ing that, in the end, could make alter­ations to the water cycle, and that is ter­ri­ble because water is the moth­er of life. One of these sci­en­tists said that, for the first time, human activ­i­ty had some deter­mi­na­tion on the cli­mate, and in this case, neg­a­tive deter­mi­na­tion, glob­al warm­ing. And, because of this, human activ­i­ty that uses fos­sil mate­ri­als, as the Pope states: “In recent decades this warm­ing has been accom­pa­nied by a con­stant rise in the sea lev­el and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weath­er events, even if a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly deter­minable cause can­not be assigned to each par­tic­u­lar phe­nom­e­non” (§ 23). And he con­tin­ues: “There are oth­er fac­tors (such as vol­canic activ­i­ty, vari­a­tions in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle)” – but the real cost of this glob­al warm­ing is that “a num­ber of sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies indi­cate that most glob­al warm­ing in recent decades is due to the great con­cen­tra­tion of green­house gas­es (car­bon diox­ide, methane, nitro­gen oxides and oth­er) releas­es main­ly as a result of human activ­i­ty)” (§ 23). And this is the mat­ter: Is the pur­pose of human exis­tence to use these fos­sil mate­ri­als, which pro­duce these glob­al changes and the alter­ation of the climate?

These ideas come from sci­ence, but the Pope, with his author­i­ty, says that we need to change. Many ideas that he takes do not come direct­ly from the Gospel, for exam­ple many come from Phi­los­o­phy, like when he says that the end of our activ­i­ty is the com­mon good. That comes from the Greeks, from Aris­to­tle. Or when we say that the human being is the cen­ter of the Social doc­trine of the Church, it comes from phi­los­o­phy, or maybe jurists. Any­way, the Pope takes these ideas and says that they are implic­it in the Gospel, but the same goes for cer­tain ideas that come from the sci­ences, so he says “this is true! We need to take them in order to change.

And, also, the Pope takes ideas from the social sci­ences and that is that the con­se­quence of this applies direct­ly, and spe­cial­ly, to the poor. They – the poor peo­ple from rich coun­tries – are the ones that suf­fer the most con­se­quences and maybe do not even get to use these form of ener­gy. But, it also applies to the poor coun­tries, like for instance the Philip­pines, that suf­fer the con­se­quences of the usage of these types of ener­gy, and do not have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to access to them. This is, of course, one of the oth­er con­se­quences that the Pope indi­cates very clear­ly, which comes from the social sci­ences. Human beings can start doing things in a good way and take advice from the nat­ur­al sci­ences and social sci­ences, that is to start a sus­tain­able devel­op­ment (that also comes from the UN). In the end, it is a con­tin­u­a­tion form the Mag­is­teri­um of the Church, which comes from Paul VI, who states that we need to redis­cov­er the poten­tial­i­ty of the earth to acti­vate it for the ser­vice of the human being. From the moral point of view, we need to come back to a new eth­ic, the eth­ic from the Beat­i­tudes of the Gospel, that con­sid­ers the suf­fer­ing and injus­tice that bear upon the peo­ple, the poor peo­ple. We need to con­sid­er the help­ing of peo­ple that suf­fer as a gift that we have, a gift that God gave us for human development.

This is the eth­ic that the Pope wants to put in the cen­ter, that is in rela­tion with the Gospel (Mt. 25), when God, in the last moment of our life, will ask us what we did for our suf­fer­ing broth­ers that have more neces­si­ty than oth­ers. The Pope is very con­cerned about this and the main pur­pose of his pon­tif­i­cate is to return to this cen­tral mes­sage of Christ: To love espe­cial­ly those who are in more neces­si­ty, the mar­gin­al­ized, and exclud­ed from society.

Thank you.

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