When spirituality inspires us to protect Earth’s species

September 1st 2015, the Catholic Church holds its first ever World Day of Prayer for the Environment launched by Pope Francis. Who, among us, has never felt, while watching an elephant family in Amboseli national park or the perfect complexity of a healthy ecosystem, that something fundamental is at stake here for the whole of humanity, for us who live alongside it all?

Who has never felt how much we have in common with these creatures however different they may be from us?

Who has never felt suffering at the vision of a suffering animal, and joy at the vision of happy animals?

Who, when faced with the extinction of an animal species, has not thought of the extinction of our own species?

Throughout the ages, nature has been a source of inspiration and sense for human beings, thus closely intertwined with spirituality.

September 1st 2015, the Catholic Church holds its first ever World Day of Prayer for the Environment launched by Pope Francis. In doing this, Pope Francis follows the example of Bartholomew, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, which has been celebrating this day since 1989. The two religious leaders, as many others before and with them, acknowledge that everything in our world is inextricably linked—human beings, animals, nature.

IFAW applauds this initiative which continues the global movement initiated by the publication of the encyclical (papal letter) by Pope Francis on June 18th 2015.

IFAW welcomes this ecological re-awakening of religious consciences. It is in fact a re-awakening of consciences because for many religions, in every part of the world, the respect of nature has been an integral part of their philosophies from the outset.

The metaphor of “our common home” echoes IFAW’s understanding of conservation and animal welfare as well as our on-the-ground experience: when animals, both individuals and general populations are healthy, the people and communities around them are healthy as well.

People achieve far greater and sustainable changes when their hearts are in it, due to a personal commitment and belief that they are part of a global movement for a better world not only for themselves, but also for the whole of humanity.

State power can be limited to its borders, but the power of religion, although being no more than an invitation to the faithful, transcends country borders and calls out to the good in each individual, in order for them to choose the collective greater good.

It is this very ‘invitation’ that includes the moral dimension of change that IFAW welcomes as good news and a great hope for animals.


Read the full text of the encyclical (papal letter) by Pope Francis.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy