VATICAN CITY — For an Ecology of Man, a new book collecting Benedict XVI’s speeches on ecology and humanity’s relationship with nature, reveals his love and concern for nature and animals, according to the emeritus pope’s once-private secretary.
“In the book, Benedict writes that man, if he is to have a heart for peace, must have an awareness of the connection between natural ecology and human ecology,” Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, who is now Pope Francis’ private secretary, told Vatican Radio in an Oct. 19 interview.
“There emerges an inseparable link between peace for creation and peace among men,” he added.
Msgr. Xuereb presented For an Ecology of Man,” newly published in Italian by the Vatican Publishing House, at the seventh annual meeting of the publisher’s cultural association in the northern Italian city of Pordenone.
He decided to present the new book to “make a contribution, however small, to reveal the true identity of Pope Benedict. I suffer when I hear comments which are far from representing the true Pope Benedict.”
Msgr. Xuereb quoted from the book, in which Benedict rooted his concern for ecology in human community, especially the family. “These are words to meditate on,” the monsignor said.
The anthology emphasizes human responsibility towards creation, he added. “In the texts presented in the anthology, Pope Benedict mentions the word responsibility 39 times. This means that man is not yet responsible enough, has not yet realized the importance of the human person.”
He said, “I believe that this book will be a contribution to humanity, that it might become always more responsible for this great gift that the Lord has given us, not as masters, but as custodians.”
The monsignor recounted how Benedict “would melt in front of animals, in nature; he liked to stand outside when we would go for a picnic,” adding that he appreciates not only cats, “but has love for all animals.”
He told of how they were once walking in the Vatican Gardens praying the Rosary, and they noticed a particular bird that the Holy Father suggested they photograph. “When he saw the photos, his expression was of marvel,” and he insisted that they be published in L’Osservatore Romano.
Msgr. Xuereb noted the continuity not only between Benedict and Pope Francis, but among the popes stretching back to John XXIII, saying that “he, who was the son of peasants, how could he not have a sensitivity to creation?”
He said that Benedict and his successor have both said we must fight a culture of waste.
“To recognize creation as God’s gift to humanity helps us to understand the vocation and worth of man,” he concluded. “It makes no sense to care for nature, for plants and then despise man. Respect for man, as a consequence, leads to respect for nature.”