By Courtney Mares
Pope Francis spoke with Buddhist monks from Cambodia on Thursday about the need for “ecological conversion.”
In a meeting at the Vatican on Jan. 19, the pope defined “ecological conversion” as “true repentance” that leads to the end of “ideologies and practices that are hurtful and disrespectful to the earth.”
Francis said that it requires people to commit to “promoting models of developments that heal wounds inflicted by greed, excessive search for financial profits, lack of solidarity with neighbors, and disrespect for the environment.”
He commended the delegation, which included civil society from Cambodia, for choosing “ecological conversion” as the theme of their visit to Rome focused on interreligious cooperation.
Pope Francis underlined “the profound richness that our respective religious traditions offer in sustaining efforts to cultivate ecological responsibility.”
The pope said: “In following the tenets that the Buddha left as a legacy to his disciples (Pratimoksa), including the practices of metta, which involves not harming living things (cf. Metta Sutta sn 1.8) and living a simple lifestyle, Buddhists can achieve a compassionate protection for all beings, including the earth, their habitat.”
Francis continued: “For their part, Christians fulfill their ecological responsibility when, as trustworthy stewards, they protect creation, the work God has entrusted to them ‘to till and to keep’” (Gen 2:15; cf. Laudato Si’, 95; 217).
Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, also traveled to the Vatican for the meeting. The bishop from Strasbourg has served as a missionary in Cambodia for 25 years and speaks Khmer.
Pope Francis thanked the Cambodian delegation for their visit to the Vatican, where they will continue to meet with Vatican offices dedicated to interreligious dialogue.
“I am also certain that your meeting with the officials of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue will provide an opportunity to explore further ways to promote ecological conversion through the initiatives undertaken by Buddhist-Christian dialogue both in Cambodia and in the whole region,” the pope said.
“Upon you and upon all in your noble country I invoke an abundance of blessings from on high.”