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Earth is entrusted to man's use, not abuse

Written by Pope John Paul II on Monday, 01 January 2001. Posted in Pope John Paul II

On November 11, farmers and representatives of agricultural institutions from the five continents gathered with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, as part of the Jubilee of the Agricultural World. Here are some excerpts from the Holy Father's address:

Without doubt, the most important value at stake when we look at the earth and at those who work is the principle that brings the earth back to her Creator: the earth belongs to God! It must therefore be treated according to his law. If, with regard to natural resources, especially under the pressure of industrialization, an irresponsible culture of "dominion" has been reinforced with devastating ecological consequences, this certainly does not correspond to God's plan. "Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air." (Gn 1:28). These famous words of Genesis entrust the earth to man's use, not abuse. They do not make man the absolute arbiter of the earth's governance, but the Creator's "co-worker": a stupendous mission, but one which is also marked by precise boundaries that can never be transgressed with impunity.

This is a principle to be remembered in agricultural production itself, whenever there is a question of its advance through the application of biotechnologies, which cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of immediate economic interests. They must be submitted beforehand to rigorous scientific and ethical examination, to prevent them from becoming disastrous for human health and the future of the earth.

The fact that the earth belongs constitutively to God is also the basis of the principle, so dear to the Church's social teaching, of the universal destination of the earth's goods. What God has given man, he has given with the heart of a father who cares for his children, no one excluded. God's earth is therefore man's earth and that of all mankind! This certainly does not imply the illegitimacy of the right to property, but demands a conception of it and its consequent regulation which will safeguard and further its intrinsic "social function".

Every person, every people, has the right to live off the fruits of the earth. At the beginning of the new millennium, it is an intolerable scandal that so many people are still reduced to hunger and live in conditions unworthy of man. We can no longer limit ourselves to academic reflections: we must rid humanity of this disgrace through appropriate political and economic decisions... (Editor's note: An efficient way to ensure everyone access to the fruits of the earth is to give a social dividend to every citizen.)

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