Top 5 tweets from Cardinal Turkson’s talk in Milan

Cardinal Turkson gave an incredible talk this morning on “Laudato Si’ and the Vocation to Agriculture.” While he definitely did not hold back in frankly addressing the challenges and even injustices in contemporary food production, he also reaffirmed that farming is a noble vocation.

If you don’t have time to read his full speech, definitely check out these Top 5 Tweets from his talk at the Faith, Food & the Environment symposium in Milan:

Farming is a “noble vocation,” Cardinal Turkson tells international ag gathering

image-3Farming is a “noble vocation” that should be marked by gratitude and responsibility, Cardinal Peter Turkson told an international gathering of agricultural leaders in Milan this morning.

While true of other human pursuits, this is especially the case for agriculture, because food is “essential to human life,” and not just “another product,” said the cardinal, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Turkson delivered his remarks at the onset of a symposium on faith and farming, which is being held at the World Expo in Milan from June 27-28.

Throughout his talk, he highlighted the connections between Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ recently published eco-encyclical, and agriculture. He urged agricultural leaders to take into account the well being of both human and natural ecology in their work.

The cardinal outlined a number of challenges facing contemporary agriculture, including industrialized operations that encourage waste, damage the environment, and displace small-scale farmers.

“Is our system aimed at producing money or food?” Cardinal Turkson asked rhetorically. He added that not only is there a right to food, but also a right to produce food, a recognition of the difficulties of small-scale agricultural operations in an increasingly globalized market.

Turkson also addressed the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which he said are not bad in their own right, but have “associated evils,” such as the concentration productive land among a few owners, increased use of pesticides, and the loss of opportunities for rural workers.

Turkson highlighted practical ways of addressing these challenges, many that were touched on by Pope Francis in Laudato Si, including investment in rural infrastructure and the development of systems of sustainable agriculture.

“When farmers, traders, buyers and sellers see their wealth as a common good rather than just private property, and the food they produce, prepare and distribute as sustenance we share—then the whole enterprise will sustain our human being and our common home,” Turkson concluded.

The symposium on faith and farming that Cardinal Turkson spoke at is part of a larger initiative to articulate a vocation to agriculture. The effort is being led by Catholic Rural Life (USA) and the International Catholic Rural Association in partnership with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.


Life, community and culture: FFE Milan themes echoed at Expo2015

The following post is written by Dr. Mark Neuzil, a professor and journalist from the University of St. Thomas, who is in Milan taking part in the Faith, Food & the Environment symposium. Follow him on Twitter.

Food and culture are permanently mixed; it is difficult to have a complete understanding of each without the other.

In the case of the World’s Exposition, which is in Milan, Italy, this year, each of the represented nations attempts to highlight a particular food — Czech beer, Belgian waffles, Polish sausage, Italian wine — that represents its culture.


As the international symposium on Faith, Food and the Environment opens Saturday at Expo2015, it is noteworthy that the exhibit put up by the United States echoes the symposium’s themes. The Americans have decided to build a long ramp to a second-story video extravaganza; on the walls along the ramp are quotes from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and others who are responsible for the food we eat.

For example, an Alaskan fisherman named Heather Hardcastle says, “For us fishing is not a livelihood. It is a way of life.” This is a theme that recurs often in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Overfishing is a known problem, and the pope may have been thinking about that type of environmental struggle when he wrote “Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal.” The pope mentions fishing eight (!) times in the document, and that does not count a long section on the importance of water.


The meaning of life, community and culture as they relate to food show up elsewhere along the American wall. Jack Lafluer, a cranberry farmer from Massachusetts, said simply “I’d like to pass our farm on to the next generation.” Ohenten Kariwatekwen said, “We have been given the duty to live in harmony with one another and other living things.” In the Christian tradition, one often thinks of St. Francis of Assisi as the example of someone who lived in harmony with nature, and it is no coincidence that the pope draws heavily from St. Francis in the encyclical.

As Kariwatekwen highlights, duty and faith are often spoken of together. John Paul II said Christians “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.” Faith is a way humanity makes sense of itself; properly ordering priorities and relationships and helping us live in harmony with our neighbors. As Pope Francis emphasized, faith can also help us live in harmony with nature.

Thinking about agriculture (the production of food) as a vocation—a special calling, with attending responsibilities—is a way to live out duty and faith. One of the origins of the word duty is from the Middle English duete, which means due.

None of these themes are new, but the Belgian fries, German sausages and Thai spices at EXPO2015 reminds us that they cut across cultures, religions and regions.

What does the Encyclical Letter have to do with farmers?

Several U.S. agricultural leaders will help answer that question—and rub shoulders with high-ranking Vatican officials and the heads of global farming organizations—at an international conference in Milan, Italy.

The June 27-28 conference on “Faith, Agriculture, Food and the Environment” is taking place in a monastery outside of Milan, the host city of Expo Milano 2015 happening from May through October. The invited participants will give due attention to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on “Care for our Common Home” and how it relates to agricultural production and concern for the poor.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” [Para. 14]

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key architect of the pope’s encyclical, will begin the event by providing a faith-based perspective—rooted in Pope Francis’ teaching—on the moral dimensions of farming.

Doug Peterson, president of Farmers Union Enterprises and the Minnesota Farmers Union, is one of the featured speakers at the conference. “This is a wonderful opportunity to examine the crossroads of faith, food production and the environment. We need to find better ways to ensure nutrition for the world’s people while managing our environmental footprint,” Peterson said before departing for Milan.

Peterson is joined by the presidents of three other Midwestern states’ Farmers Unions: Darin Von Ruden, Wisconsin; Mark Watne; North Dakota; and Alan Merrill, Montana.

A number of international agricultural groups will also play prominent roles, including the World Farmers Organisation, the International Catholic Rural Association, Coldiretti (Italy), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, was instrumental in setting up the Milan conference, following from an initial symposium on Faith, Food and the Environment that took place last November in St. Paul, Minnesota. “This symposium will be one of the first opportunities for farm leaders, theologians and academic experts from around the world to discuss how to apply the key themes of the letter to agriculture and environmental stewardship,” Ennis said.

Click here for the Milan Conference Agenda

16th century monastery sets the tone for FFE Milan

The stage is set for the international edition of the Faith, Food & the Environment symposium, which will take place at EXPO 2015 within the city limits of Milan, one of Italy’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic metropolises.

But in the lead-up to the symposium, which begins with dinner on Friday night, participants aren’t staying among the glitz and the glam and the excitement of Milan.

Instead, they’re quietly nestled in a 16th century monastery, about 40 kilometers to the northwest.

IMG_0735At first glance, staying at Villa Sacro Cuore seems like a mistake, an inconvenience. The ride to Milan is long, meandering through innumerable small towns and slowed by traffic. The intenet connection is spotty at best. And the 10:30 pm curfew is a bit of an imposition.

But the location serves a larger purpose—a purpose beyond earthly expediency. Staying at Villa Sacro Cuore is an opportunity to ground the symposium and the larger Vocation of the Agricultural Leader project in a deeper reality—the reality that it is our faith, not a flimsy humanism or a desire for worldly glory, that brings us together and spurs us to action.

Farmers, theologians, and scientists alike have gathered here because they believe agriculture is a unique calling, replete with ethical dimensions and theological significance. We farm not for our own sake, but in response to God’s invitation to work with Him as co-creators, stewards of His creation. The tranquility and beauty of the monastery has provided innumerable opportunities for this truth to sink in.
IMG_0864There is both the time and the space for prayer and reflection within the confines of Villa Sacro Cuore. A number of beautiful, frescoed-adorned chapels offer the opportunity for meditation with the Blessed Sacrament. Symposium participants had the privilege of celebrating Mass today with Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the archbishop emeritus of Milan. And what Catholic monastery would be complete without a kneeler in each room, and a copy of the New Testament?

The monastery’s immaculate grounds are fertile soil for quiet, thoughtful conversations among symposium participants, who come from different corners of the world. Here, in peace and tranquility, they can share with each other the struggles and joys of farming in their respective countries, a living exercise of Christian solidarity.

Villa Sacro Cuore’s fauna and foliage also offer theological backing to the symposium, as the monastery grounds are perhaps an ideal example of the type of integrated ecology that Pope Francis teaches us in Laudato Si. Human and natural wellbeing are not mutually exclusive here, but instead build upon each other.

IMG_0739A garden including several of the plants mentioned in Holy Scripture—from juniper to mustard—reminds those gathered that God made creation good, and affirmed its goodness when His Son—Our Lord—lived among it and partook in its bounty. And the surrounding Italian countryside, where stucco houses blend seamlessly into small plots of corn and wheat and barley, and where seemingly every residence has its own personal garden, helps to underscore the fact that farming is not merely an economic endeavor, where profits are the only relevant criteria; instead, it is a fundamentally human pursuit, in which the dignity of the human person and the common good must always be held in highest esteem.

IMG_0699And finally, from the southward facing windows, one can see the lights and the skyline (and the smog) of Milan in the distance. This is a reminder that the goodness, truth, and beauty of our faith, which is perhaps most strikingly evident in he oasis that is a 16th century Italian monastery, is not meant be buried and hidden. Instead, it is meant to be brought out to the world, which is exactly what the Faith, Food & the Environment symposium will do when it makes its mark at EXPO 2015 this weekend.

Yes, staying at Villa Sacro Cuore may be, by the world’s standards, an inconvenience. But then again, the Christian life has always seemed inconvenient and foolhardy to those whose vision is limited to this world and whose aims don’t go beyond their own interests. We are blessed beyond measure to begin our symposium here, and are looking forward to the days to come.

Expo Milano 2015 opens: we’ll be there in June

EXPO 2015 kicks off today in Milan, Italy, with 140 countries participating. Centered around the theme of sustainable food production, Expo Milano 2015 is expected to draw 20 million visitors before it wraps up a half-year from now, Oct. 31.

With this world exposition as its backdrop, the Faith, Food & Environment project will hold its second symposium in Milan from June 27-28. The event will gather agricultural leaders, environmental scientists, and faith representatives to explore how faith can inform modern agriculture. These select international participants will delve deeper into the Outcomes which emerged from the initial symposium held in St. Paul, Minn., in November 2014.

Since the beginning of this year, organizers of the Faith, Food & Environment project have kept the momentum rolling. Once the Proceedings of the first symposium were completed, we have sought the input of additional leaders in food and agriculture, as well as active members in faith communities.

In case you missed any of these, let’s highlight a couple of these efforts over the past three months:

In March, a delegation traveled to Rome to meet with Vatican representatives, and even received an audience with Pope Francis. The group, which included the presidents of five farmers unions, also met with members of the World Farmers Organization. The WFO is also planning an international gathering at EXPO 2015, immediately prior to our 2nd symposium in late June.

Regarding the Vatican representatives, the Faith, Food and Environment delegation took the opportunity to meet with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and one of the supporters of the project. Cardinal Turkson reaffirmed his commitment, and is expected to attend and address the Milan symposium. Monsignor Peter Wells, the Vatican’s assistant secretary of state, also met with the delegation and discussed the Catholic Church’s interest in protecting family farms and promoting food security.

In February, Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, and Dr. Christopher Thompson, the academic dean of the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, participated in a conference on family farming sponsored by the French organization, Journees Paysannes. Ennis and Dr. Thompson shared the work of the Faith, Food & Environment project and also listened to the concerns of the family farmers in attendance.

The discussions from these various events will be factored into the proceedings that emerge from the Milan symposium. The consensus of the participants in their deliberations will be used to craft The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader and other reflections that will offer practical ways for the agricultural and food leaders to incorporate their faith into their work and business lives.

Principles for a Sustainable Food Supply

In the previous blog posting (see below), Organizers of the first Faith, Food and Environment Symposium identified a number of “big picture” factors that have a significant impact on agriculture and food production around the world.

The four factors we believe are most noteworthy are (1) economic globalization; (2) financialization (finance markets manipulating agricultural commodities); (3) research & new technology; and (4) structural changes. These last two deal with the fact that large industrial processes are favored over smaller agro-ecological operations.

These factors – plus several others, if we had the time to consider them all in our project – emerged from formal Presentations during the symposium. But the reason we found these factors most compelling was due to the earnest and heart-felt discussions on the final morning of the symposium.

Participants were invited to express their reactions, comments and concerns during a two-hour “open mic” period. Their remarks were wide ranging, but certain themes or “areas of common concern” could be identified and highlighted:

  • Sustainability in its many facets: economic, social, ecological, spiritual
  • Market structure & corporate power: returning fair competition to a highly concentrated marketplace
  • Virtues of fairness & justice: correcting abuses to workers and producers along the “food chain” and to consumers (low-income or dietary/health concerns)
  • Sense of creation & the Creator: as opposed to economic rationalization of “property” / “resources” / “labor”/ “valuation”
  • Support for small farmers: through public policies and consumer awareness; ensuring that family farms remain the preferred type of food producers
  • Next generation of producers: assisting those who can and want to farm; overcoming obstacles that limit access to land, capital, extension support
  • Developing farmers overseas: technical assistance to improve food production in developing nations
  • Inclusiveness of all voices: farmers, campesinos, farmworkers, food workers, consumer advocates and other stakeholders along the food chain

These areas of concern as identified by farmers, faith-based advocates, academic researchers and farmer union members at the symposium lead us to articulate a set of principles for a sustainable food supply. The project Organizers are still sorting these out in preparation of the next symposium – set for the end of June in Milan, Italy, when farmers and food advocates will gather at Expo 2015. But here is a start to what those principles will encompass:

  1. Integral Ecology

The call to be protectors of the land and the earth is integral and all-embracing. As Christians, we are called to protect and care for both the human person and all of creation and the human person. These concepts are reciprocal and together they make for authentic and sustainable human development.

The web of life is finely balanced: small changes in one part of the planet’s rhythms and systems can have significant, if not dramatic consequences, for the whole of the earth and its creatures. For the natural environment to be respected, the human environment and its objective moral structure must also be respected. When we ignore or neglect one, it has a destructive impact on the other.

  1. Food Security

Food security exists when all members – nation, city, community and every family household – have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. World summits and global declarations on food security regularly commit to the fight against hunger wherever food insecurity persists.

Increasing food production in itself does not solve the problem: hunger is due to poverty. The real question is how to increase income and secure market access. Whereas some argue for the expansion of free and open global markets to reduce food insecurities, others call for the development of local agriculture appropriate to a region or area.

  1. Proprietary Family Farms

When economic and sociological values are taken into account, is it better to have a farming sector of proprietary farmers who provide most of their own labor as well as capital and management? Or is there nothing to fear from a system of tenancy as farmers work the land held by absentee landlords, or one of industrial corporation control through contract in which “farmers” are essentially wage-hands?

These questions imply that a widespread system of family farms is the preferred one, for reasons beyond strictly economic ones. The crux is not to resolve these questions within the confines of agricultural communities and agribusiness boardrooms, but to engage the wider public interest.

One principle more: Global Solidarity

These principles above will require a new global solidarity, one in which everyone has a part to play. Every action, no matter how small, can make a difference. Pope Francis has called upon public authorities and all people of good will, including “those in possession of greater resources,” to work for social justice.

“Never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity,” he said. “The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.”


Focusing on “Big Picture” Factors

As the Presentations of the 1st Symposium show, factors other than economic ones have a meaningful bearing on agriculture and food production. Appropriate technology, ecological harmony, social development and cultural aspirations all deserve analysis, as many academics and researchers continue to study.

The organizers of the Faith, Food & Environment project have strained through the presentations, as well as reviewed related research, and propose to focus our efforts on four “big picture” factors. We do this to be reasonably succinct and manageable as we move forward in articulating a set of vocational guidelines for agricultural leaders.

These four complex factors are:

  • Globalization: the process of integrating national economies on a worldwide basis has also deeply integrated the global exchange of foods and agricultural goods. But drawbacks to this development of a “global food system” include economic dislocation within countries, disenfranchisement of local producers, rural-to-urban migration, and the inability of nation-state governments to properly regulate capital flows and environmental protections.
  • Financialization: the process of financial markets to dominate business enterprises worldwide, including over agribusiness and agricultural commodities. This “financial leveraging” capability has intensified tendencies to commoditize the goals of work and to emphasize wealth maximization and short-term gains at the expense of working for the common good. An analysis of the financialization of food production and agriculture includes the role of asset management companies and private equity consortia. The concern here is that producers or consumers no longer control their food system; nor do commodity groups or food retailers. It is financial institutions which are increasingly dominate over the traditional industries of food and agricultural production.
  • Research and Technology: Although scientific research has discovered new products and solutions for improved agricultural production, this has also created controversies, such as the genetic manipulation of crop seeds and animal breeds. Ethical questions are raised in respect to farm practices, livestock production, resource management, environmental impacts and international trade, to name a few. Furthermore, ethical questions are raised about control of the research agenda (notably in Land Grant universities) and whether this favors corporate agribusiness interests over family farms and the public good.
  • Structural changes: The industrialization of agriculture over the past century has increased production efficiencies, but has led to fewer farms and the dwindling of rural communities. Agricultural leaders feel the pressure to maximize wealth over other concerns; farm operations become larger and more specialized; and markets have come to expect every kind of food all year round. These market-oriented or economic goals can lose sight of social, ecological and cultural goals. A vanguard of farmer and consumer groups are responding with community-minded and environmentally sound food systems.

These processes or trends are a complicated mix of factors that present “a complex interplay of light and dark, of good and evil, of truth and falsehood, of opportunities and threats,” as one of the symposium presenters characterized it. When it comes to agriculture, and perhaps to any extractive use of natural resources, what appears as economic opportunity could also be social and ecological threats.

Therefore, it is necessary to invoke a Principle of Sustainability: to satisfy food and fiber needs while maintaining the environment and natural resource base on which agricultural production depends. Given that industrial and exploitative agriculture has gone on for some time, a corollary Principle of Regeneration has also become necessary: to begin improving the environmental quality of the land so that the natural resource base is revitalized for the next generation of farmers.

Do you agree with these dominant factors? More to the question, do you feel that these factors are causing more problems than they are resolving? Or is it just the way business – or agribusiness – is in our modern productive world? There’s not much we can do about it.

Please let us know what you think! We’ll post selective comments as these come in, but the Symposium organizers will review and consider any and all comments as we move forward in our Faith, Food and the Environment project.

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Farm conference in France emphasizes centrality of “family”

A conference on family farming in the French countryside of Souvigny was held in late February, organized by Journees Paysannes. This Catholic organization is committed to protecting and promoting family farms and rural communities.

We mention this event because it is part of the continuing effort to incorporate a number of different perspectives from the world of agriculture into the Faith, Food and Environment project. One of the organizers of the Journees Paysannes gathering was Michel Thierry-DuPont, who had previously attended the 1st Symposium of Faith, Food and the Environment, held in St. Paul, Minn., this past November.

A second symposium will take place in Milan, Italy, in late June. But before then, symposium organizers are attending gatherings where and when they can. The gathering in France was timely; additional focus group events will take place in the U.S. over the next few months; and international meetings will take place in Rome, besides the one in Milan.

Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, was joined on the France trip by Dr. Christopher Thompson, academic dean of the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. He is a primary researcher in preparing a final document for the Faith, Food and Environment project, and needless to say international input on the project is essential.

“It’s a resource that’s meant to serve the entire Church,” Ennis said. “So we need to hear from leaders in food production and agriculture from around the world, not just the US.”

At the Journees Paysanne conference, Ennis gave an overview of the Faith, Food & the Environment project to the 100-plus farmers in attendance. Following that, Dr. Thompson provided a compelling account of the connection between the theology of creation and contemporary farming.

Ennis said the presentations were well received. “It was unanimous that a faith-based perspective about food production and the environment would be helpful for farmers,” he said. “The resources to be produced by the end of this year will also suggest practical actions that ensure food for all while caring for creation.”

To make that happen, Ennis and Dr. Thompson solicited the input of Journees Paysannes members so that the resources would respond to their needs. The French farmers who attended the conference were more than willing to share. Breakout discussions and Q&A sessions following the CRL presentations gave attendees the opportunity to discuss the type of resources that might be helpful to family farmers in France.

Ennis says that one of the main points that emerged was the importance of keeping families in farming.

“There’s a long history in France of caring for the land and passing on the farm from one generation to another,” he said. “But families are now feeling intense pressure due to the globalization and industrialization of agriculture. They see young people leaving the rural communities and not returning. There’s also a lot of pressure on small and medium sized family farms to consolidate or sell.”

In spite of these economic challenges, the consensus was clear: family farming keeps an essential human element in agriculture, and those in attendance were committed to protecting and promoting this model.

“How can we continue to pass on the farm to the next generation?” asked Ennis rhetorically. “Those were the questions they were asking and wanted to include in the Faith, Food & the Environment project.”

Another common theme was the loss of a sense of vocation in agriculture. Conference attendees say this needs to be addressed in clear and explicit language in the final set of resources.

“There’s a lack of integration between faith and farming, that in turn has made it difficult for French people living in rural societies to pass on the Catholic faith to their children,” said Ennis. “The document we produce can help to explore how Catholics on the land can pass the faith on to the next generation, as it relates to agriculture.”

For Ennis, the trip emphasized the need to focus on the human element of farming, such as faith and family. In addition to the two-day conference, driving around the French countryside and visiting several farms also made this point clear.

“There’s a pressure to take culture out of agriculture in France. To dehumanize it,” Ennis said. “Yet I saw the very human side of it, the love of the land, the pride they take in their work. I saw the universalism of human nature and of families.”

“There’s a solidarity in this, but there’s also a void and a need for new catechesis on faith and farming. The Faith, Food & the Environment project will help fill that void.”

Humanity cannot exist without farmers, says Pope Francis

Vatican City, Jan. 31, 2015: Pope Francis spoke with farmers during a public audience and told them that in a world marked by wastefulness, they have the important vocation of caring for the earth and providing for all of humanity.

“Care for the earth, making alliance with it,” he counseled them, “in order that it may continue to be, as God wants, the source of life for the entire human family.”

As reported by Catholic News Service, the Holy Father’s remarks were made at the Papal Palace during a Jan. 31 audience with members of Italy’s National Federation of Farmers, who celebrate their 70th anniversary of their foundation this year.

The word cultivate, Pope Francis said in prepared remarks, “calls to mind the care which the farmer has for his land because it gives fruit, and this is shared.”

The Holy Father said that without farming, there is no humanity, and without good food, there is no life for “the men and women of every continent.”

He went on to describe farming as a true vocation which deserves to be recognized and valued, and warned against measures which penalize this “valuable activity” and dissuade new generations from taking an interest in this profession.

Pope Francis went on to speak of two “critical areas” of reflection with regard to the farming profession: First, that of poverty and hunger which is still “a vast part of humanity.”

Recalling the universal destination of the goods of the earth – to and for all people – Pope Francis said, “in reality the dominant economic system excludes much of their correct use.”

The absolutizing of market rules, a “throwaway culture” and food wastefulness of unacceptable proportions cause misery and suffering for many families, he said.

The second “critical area” of reflection on the farming profession, the Pope continued, is to remember the importance of “man’s call, not only to till the earth, but also to care for it” as we learn in the Genesis story of creation.

“Every farmer knows well how it becomes more difficult to till the land at a time of accelerated climate change.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of acting swiftly to care for creation, calling on nations to collaborate with one another in this goal.

He then invited those present in the audience to “rediscover love for the earth as ‘mother’ – as Saint Francis would say – from which we have taken and to which we are called to constantly return.”