QUITO, Ecuador - Education is a right and a privilege that
should impart not only knowledge and skills, but also a sense
of responsibility for others and for the earth, Pope Francis
told representatives of Ecuadorean schools and universities.
"God gives us not only life, he gives us the earth, he gives
us all of creation," the pope told an estimated 5,000
educators and students gathered for an outdoor meeting at the
Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.
God created man and woman for each other and gave them huge
potential, the pope said July 7, but he also gave them -- and
gives each person -- a mission to be part of his creative
"I am giving you seeds, soil, water and sun," the pope said
God tells human beings. God gave people hands and gave them
one another; he gave everything as a gift, the pope said.
Quoting from and explaining some of the principles in his
encyclical letter on the environment, "Laudato Si'," the pope
said God created the world and everything in it not "so he
could see himself reflected in it," but in order to share it.
"Creation is a gift to be shared," Pope Francis said. It is
the place God gives humanity to exercise its creativity and
to build a community of care and concern.
"We are invited not only to share in the work of creation and
to cultivate it, but to make it grow and develop it," he
said. At the same time, "we are called to care for it,
protect it and be its guardians."
The balance is delicate and caution is urgent "because of the
harm we have inflicted (on the earth) by our irresponsible
use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed it,"
the pope said, quoting his encyclical.
"The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the
most abandoned and maltreated of our poor," he said, still
As he insisted in the encyclical, Pope Francis told the
educators and students that care for the environment is not
an isolated moral issue. "There is a relationship between our
life and that of mother earth, between the way we live and
the gift we have received from God."
Selfishness, consumerism, a desire for money and power, a
lack of respect for God's design for all of creation - human
beings included - have a negative impact on people and on the
environment, he said.
"Just as both can 'deteriorate,' we can also say that they
can support one another and can be changed for the better."
Pope Francis said people cannot ignore what is happening
around them or pretend that it has no impact on them. Rather,
he said, "it is urgent that we keep reflecting on and talking
about our current situation" and take action.
Without action, the pope said, people are like the Old
Testament Cain, who killed his brother Abel, and when God
asked Cain where Abel was, he replied, "Am I my brother's
"I wonder if our answer continues to be 'Am I my brother's
keeper?'" the pope said.
"We have received this earth as an inheritance, a gift, in
trust," he said. "We would do well to ask ourselves: What
kind of world do we want to leave behind? What meaning or
direction do we want to give to our lives? Why have we been
Those questions should be part of the educational process,
the pope said.
"How do we help our young people not to see a university
degree as synonymous with higher status, money and social
prestige?" he asked. "How can we help make their education a
sign of greater responsibility in the face of today's
problems," especially responding to "the needs of the poor,
concern for the environment?"
The pope spoke at the university at the end of his second
full day in Ecuador. After visiting a home for the aged and
meeting with religious July 8, he was to fly to Bolivia, then
onto Paraguay July 10, before leaving for the Vatican July