Pope Francis warned at the Vatican on Wednesday that if humans destroy God's "greatest gift," which is creation itself, it will in turn destroy them.
"He urged people to nurture and safeguard Creation as God's greatest gift to us, because while God always forgives, Creation never forgives and – he warned – if we destroy Creation, in the end it will destroy us," The Vatican Radio reported on Francis' remarks.
The Vatican leader also reflected that the "gift of knowledge" should steer people away from wrong attitudes, such as "considering ourselves masters of Creation. Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude."
In his speech, Francis reminded the audience of the first chapter of Genesis, where God created the world, and "saw that it was good."
"If God sees that Creation is something good and beautiful, we too must have this attitude, we must see that Creation is something good and beautiful. The gift of knowledge, of this beauty, we have to thank God for having given us this gift, this beauty," the Roman Catholic Church leader said.
He added that humans were appointed to be custodians, not masters of creation.
"Custody of Creation is custody of God's gift to us and it is also a way of saying thank you to God. I am the master of Creation but to carry it forward I will never destroy your gift. And this should be our attitude towards Creation," Francis continued.
"This should give us pause for thought and ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of knowledge that Creation is a gift from God, a gift for the best thing He created which is the human person."
Francis has spoken on environmental issues a number of times throughout his papacy, including last June during World Environment Day when he reminded the faithful that God gave humans the earth so they can take care of it and protect it, not to exploit and neglect it.
"And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it?" the Vatican leader asked.
He added that people are often driven "by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not 'care' for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation."