The word ecology is derived from Greek, meaning “study of the house”, where “house” is the world. There is a deep concern today about the health of our planet and “inhabiting our house”. It is time for a planetary ecology – peace with the earth, or peace with nature. After St Francis, we prefer Peace with creation as it better expresses a vision of the world where peace forms the basis for all relationships. Peace with creation calls us to a renewed awareness of the interconnected web of life that embraces the spiritual, human and natural worlds.

Francis of Assisi taught us respect for every living creature and inanimate beings. He was considerate even to stones and worms. When out of necessity his friars needed wood, he would forbid them to cut the whole tree, and order them to leave at least one sucker so that the tree could continue to live. Moreover, he also had rules for how gardens were to be tended: friars were to have one part for edible vegetables, another part for flowers and herbs, and one part for wild plants to grow and thrive. His message was this: we are not the owners but only the guardians of the world.
Following St Francis’s example, Assisi Pax International shows the way to be at peace with “creation.” The natural world should be loved and respected not because it is in danger of being destroyed, but because everything – animals, plants or inanimate beings – is a sign of the presence of God. St Francis established a peaceful relationship with the natural world and it is that very relationship that should be re-established. Is it any wonder that economists and climatologists urge us to see the natural world as a “relational good?”

The olive tree in the garden of Chiesa Nuova
In the garden of Chiesa Nuova is an olive tree. Its history is quite remarkable. On 27 October 1986, the world prayer day for peace, Pope John Paul II gave an olive sprout to each representative of the various Christian denominations and other faiths that gathered in Assisi.

The Native American representative of his peoples’ religious tradition could not take the Pope’s gift to America because of Custom restrictions. He gave the olive branch to Professor Carlo Laudenzi. The Laudenzi family then donated the seedling to Assisi Pax International in his memory and it has come to be a symbol of peace worldwide.

It is from this olive tree that Assisi Pax picks a branch, which is then plated in either gold or silver, and given to those who have authoritatively stood for peace. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI was awarded Assisi Pax International’s golden palm.