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September 8 2014

The Custos of the Holy Convent at Sant’Egidio’s International Peace Conference. Saint Francis, Nature and Sustainable Development.

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St. Francis’ relationship with nature has given rise to the idea of a sustainable development for mankind and for the economy of the third millennium, according to Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Holy Convent of Assisi, speaking today at the round table discussion devoted to economic-social issues at the Community of Sant’Egidio’s International Peace Conference underway in Antwerp.

Quoting medieval franciscan sources, the speaker recalled that the Poverello never cared about “obtaining the highest possibile gain from his surroundings, even though he didn’t have to worry about the depletion of resources”. His behavior reflected the principle of “what we today call sustainable development, combining… the happiness of the gift of nature with the reality that that gift can only come from our surroundings and therefore we are condemned to death if we don’t respect what sustains us”.

Alternatively, the speaker cited the “irrational actions of people who consider themselves to be owners and exploiters of nature” and cited numerous examples: the systematic destruction of the landscape, deforestation, uncontrolled overbuilding, genetic manipulation and environmental pollution. The only way to overcome such temptation is to “choose poverty as a condition of freedom, to live without hoarding, using resources without expropriating them, enjoying the beauty of our surroundings without yielding to the instinct of taking possession of them”. On the other hand – he concluded – “either we dominate that instinct or it dominates us”.

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