Pope Francis spotlights the environment

The Oconee Enterprise, September 1, 2016:
Dr. David Lewis

In his encyclical called Laudato Si’, Pope Francis called on Catholics to end environmental degradation, which impacts poor communities the hardest and children in particular. Speaking of orphans, lepers and other outcasts who followed him, Jesus said: “Whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do to me.” With environmental justice, the scientific community and church both seek to protect the most vulnerable.

Dr. Lewis’ article posted in The Oconee Enterprise – Click to enlarge David Lewis

Pope Francis’ commitment to this cause began when his friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, hugged and kissed him after he was elected, imploring him to not forget the poor. Moved by his friend’s plea, the pontiff assumed the name of St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century Italian merchant who befriended the poor and lived humbly among lepers.

According to early biographers, St. Francis received his calling in 1206 when he entered a dilapidated chapel to pray. As he knelt before a crucifix among the scattered remains, he heard the lifeless figure speak, saying: “Francis, go repair my house, which is falling in ruins.”

This story reminds me of a medical conference I spoke at in Uruguay. My translator, a lay minister at the Catholic Church in Montevideo, told me that a great miracle had occurred at his church. For many days, he said, a statue of Mary outside the cathedral shed tears of blood. Not even the Vatican could discern her message. Perhaps, I said, she was weeping because the church has wandered so far from the message her Son delivered to the world.

After a long pause, the minister agreed and gave two examples. He told how his young son rose during a Sunday service to lean over the balcony and hear every word the priest spoke. Then, as the priest stood in the doorway at the end of the service, the little boy tugged at his robe.

After everyone left, the priest finally asked what he wanted. You said we should love the poor, the little boy remarked. That’s right, the priest replied. Then why are you so mean to children, he asked; they are the poorest in all the land. The minister said his priest also once turned away a child who stood in the doorway, watching as members were served cake at a reception. Objecting, the minister took the cake from the priest’s hand, and gave it to the poor, hungry child.

Similar to the chapel ruins where St. Francis prayed, the house of science is crumbling under the influence of funding from government and industry. The public is invited to the annual Laudato Si’ lecture in the UGA Catholic Center Hall, where I will speak on this topic at 7:00 PM, Thurs., Sept. 29, 1344 S. Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA.

The opinions expressed are those of David Lewis, Research Director for the Focus for Health Foundation in Watchung, New Jersey (www.focusforhealth.org/davidlewis), author of Science for Sale (Skyhorse Publishing, NY) and CEO of Saxon Road Church Inc. in Watkinsville, Georgia.

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David Lewis, Ph.D.

Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist

David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.

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