Pope Francis — Jorge Mario Bergoglio, before he was elected to his present position — is perhaps one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the history of the Catholic Church, not least of all due to his outspokenness on the role of food in preserving human welfare.
During his governance, Pope Francis has been both lighthearted and quite serious about food — from expressing his simple desire to enjoy a slice of pizza in public to his message to the world’s wealthy that they would one day be subject to God’s judgment, when it would be revealed whether or not “they really tried to provide for Him in every person, and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.”
While these pronouncements, especially regarding the impact of our agricultural choices on the climate, have been criticized by more traditional members of the Catholic Church, others, including non-Catholics, have praised Pope Francis for his calls for a more environmentally sound attitude toward food production, and his insistence on the need to create global food security — a task which requires the wealthy to distribute their riches.
From his love of wine and pasta to his stance on GMOs, Pope Francis has never shied away from delivering a powerful message about how humans, Catholic or not, can improve their relationships with food, for the better of the world as a whole.
Food Production and the Environment: ‘This Is Why the Earth Herself… Is Among the Most Abandoned and Maltreated of Our Poor’
Not everyone has been thrilled with the Pope’s increasingly insistent calls for global action on climate change — but we have.
In an encyclical letter, “On Care for Our Common Home,” the Pope wrote, “This sister [the Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.
“We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”
The letter, which continues for several pages, goes on to identify “pollution, waste, and the throwaway culture,” as well as the loss of biodiversity and water, as some of the greatest failings against both the planet and humankind.
In it, the Pope calls for political action as well as a unified response from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and promises that although “all is not lost,” sustainability efforts must begin as soon as possible, and be as global as possible.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry,” Pope Francis said in a message on United Nations World Environment Day in 2013, mere months after taking office.
“Once, our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times we are no longer able to give a just value.”