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Jubilee for the Earth: Protecting the Common

“I give you a new commandment says the Lord: Love one another as I have loved you.”

Gospel acclamation, September 13

Love.  What better way to protect our common home than to love it.  Air, water, land? We protect what we love don’t we?  But…“Human beings, too, are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness and endowed with unique dignity.” (Laudato Si paragraph 43)

The battle cry of this time, “We are all in this together,” requires us to reflect on how our actions, inactions, and beliefs affect each member of  our human family. This pandemic has shown us truths which have emerged from the extreme pressures of this time—truths that can’t be ignored or denied.  Before the pandemic exploded, Pope Francis wrote in 2017 that, “exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” (20)

What has caused these disparities?  How have we neglected or ignorantly allowed underlying medical conditions to fester in certain communities? 

We have all heard how COVID-19 deaths are heavier among Blacks and Latinos than Whites.  “Today….we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (49)

Protecting the Common

“Would you give your son a snake if he asked for an egg?” Or polluted air, or unclean water, or little access to healthy food, or not enough food, or substandard healthcare or unaffordable healthcare?

“Love one another as I have loved you.”  (Jesus of Nazareth)


Below are true statements of love in action while other statements are waiting for God’s commandment of loving each other to be applied. Which statements do you know already?

  1. I know that Laudato Si (the name given to Pope Francis’ encyclical) is from a canticle of St. Francis, who compares our common home to a “sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” (1)
  2. I know that Black people are dying from COVID-19 at roughly the same rate as White people more than a decade older.
  3. I know that thousands of children in Cuyahoga County  “continue to be exposed to lead due primarily to poorly maintained aging and deteriorating housing stock.”
  4. I know the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is looking to support multi-field partnerships in achieving equitable and sustainable environmental and policy changes specifically around increased access to healthy foods and physical activity.
  5. I know that there is a Center for Reducing Heath Disparities created by Case Western Reserve  and the Metro Health System.
  6. I know that a recent example of a health disparity was revealed in a study that showed residents of Hough had an average life expectancy of 64 years while their more suburban neighbors in Lyndhurst have an average life expectancy of 88.5 years.
  7. I know that African American children are 2.5 times more likely to die as an infant compared to non-Hispanic white children.
  8. I know that there is an Office of Sustainability at Cleveland City Hall.
  9. I know that land use affects everybody.
  10. I know that people have been displaced because their low incomes would not afford them the possibility of staying when rents increased due to neighborhood development.


We pray for all people, especially communities of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to inequities in air pollution and health care.

—Mary Grace DeStefanis