VATICAN, June 6, 2013 ( – Pope Francis spoke strongly in defense of respect and care for “human ecology” yesterday. He proposed that the “culture of waste” has led to a widespread mentally of materialism and disposability that encompasses not only things, but people.

“This culture of waste tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful – such as the unborn child – or no longer needed – such as the elderly,” the Holy Father said.

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At the June 5 general audience in Rome, which coincided with World Environment Day, Francis said, “The popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology.”

“We are living in a time of crisis,” he added. “We see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind. The human person is in danger: this is certain, the human person is in danger today, here is the urgency of human ecology. And it is a serious danger because the cause of the problem is not superficial but profound: it is not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology.”

In a tip-of-the-hat to the UN's World Environment Day, Pope Francis recalled the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it. “And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean?”

He answered the question with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said we must “grasp the rhythm and logic of creation” in order to carry out the task appointed to mankind by God the Creator.

“But we 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 … we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.”

“Man is not in charge today,” the pope stated. “Money is in charge. Money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the culture of waste.”

“Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.”

In keeping with the tone of humility and accessibility that Pope Francis has set for his pontificate, he announced today that he will stay at the Vatican over the summer, despite the usually stifling heat, rather than going to the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills outside Rome. He will remain in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican guesthouse where he has lived since his election March 13, choosing not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

The full text of the June 5 general audience is available here