Cardinal Turkson emphasizes importance of caring for creation at St. Louis Climate Summit

April 23, 2018
By Joseph Kenny
St. Louis Review

Cardinal Peter Turkson gave a bonus talk at the St. Louis Climate Summit, which is hosted by St. Louis University as a way to advance the Pope Francis' encyclical, "Laudato Si'." In both talks, the cardinal referred to the need to respect creation.

Cardinal Turkson, the prefect of the Vatican Discastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, had a key role in the formulation of the encyclical, a document that reflects upon humankind's moral obligation to address the issue of climate change. He was delayed in Canada due to a visa issue, and gave an abbreviated talk April 22 at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church on the SLU campus after two others filled in for him. He then was added as a speaker at the start of the next day's program.

Cardinal Turkson stressed that creation is the loving work of God, something that doesn't have an ownership and exists to support human life. Because creation is "a fruit of God's decided action," everything in it has a purpose, the native of Ghana said.

Creation has order and beauty so human life can thrive, he said, comparing it on a small scale to a garden. It needs to be treated respectfully, he added.

Cardinal Turkson cited seven characteristics of the encyclical, the "magnificent seven" as he called it. They are:

• Continuity — Pope Francis was not the first pope to talk about ecology. Following up on his predecessors, "he's bringing it all together," Cardinal Turkson said, in an "integral ecology."

• Collegiality — The document is a teaching done with all the Catholic bishops from around the world.

• Conversation — It calls for dialogue, listening to all points of views and the need for everyone to come together to solve a common problem.

• Care — With a couple exceptions, instead of using the word stewardship, Pope Francis refers to a more compassionate, loving and tender way of approaching our common home.

• Conversion — We need to change habits, behavior and lifestyles.

• Citizenship — Education is important to accept our responsibility toward the care of the earth.

• Contemplation — Prayer is a way to worship our creator and helps lead us to God.

While waiting for Cardinal Turkson to arrive, Peter Raven and Mary Evelyn Tucker filled in with talks and answered questions. Raven, a conference co-chair, is a botanist and advocate of conservation and biodiversity who headed the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis for four decades. "I don't want to see civilization being destroyed," he said, adding that it is threatened unless people pay attention and adjust their activities.

Raven, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and contributor to the development of "Laudato Si'," pointed to the need to work together to "build a better, sustainable world instead of leaving a depleted" world.

Tucker, co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, called the encyclical, especially its take on the Gospel of creation, a "hymn to the universe." It awakens people to the view that "hyper individualism won't get us to a common good for our common home," Tucker said.

While calling for alternative, renewable energy sources, she said "we are losing God's creation" and "the future of life lies in our hands."

Tucker also showed optimism for "not just a sustainable future, but a flourishing future."