Aqua fons Vitae – Water is a Source of Life

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It is true that aqua fons vitae – “water is a source of life”. The survival and health of human beings depend directly on water, and so does the production of food, energy and many consumer goods. The Earth’s biodiversity, the functioning of the various biomes and of the atmosphere, the cycles of water and climate remind us of how versatile and fundamental this precious creature of God is.

Aqua fons vitae, Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, 30 March 2020, n 20

Aqua fons Vitae is a new document from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. It’s purpose is to help local churches to reflect and act on “the issue of water, development and the future of human life on Earth”.

The first chapter explores the value of water. It acknowledges the religious and aesthetic value of water, its social and cultural importance, how it can be a focus for building peace, and of course its economic value. The rest of the document goes on to focus on three aspects or dimensions of water:

  • water for human use (especially for drinking, cooking, washing clothes and ourselves, and living a healthy life)
  • water and human activities (e.g. farming, crafts and industry)
  • water as a space (e.g. rivers, underground aquifers, lakes, seas and oceans)

The Dicastery provides a summary of the major challenges in each of these dimensions. Many, but not all, are directly relevant to our Australian context, or to our near neighbours in Asia and the Pacific.

The Dicastery also points out matters requiring awareness raising and advocacy, and it suggests some specific commitments that could be undertaken by churches at the local level. These ‘orientations for action’ and ‘operational proposals’ are grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and reflect the diplomatic action undertaken by the Holy See in international fora. You may be surprised at how extensive and detailed this thinking and action by the Church has been!

The document provides guidance and suggestions rather than issuing directives – which is why Aqua fons vitae is called an Orientations Document. Most Australian Catholic schools, organisations and parishes would be able to tick off some of these actions already. However there are always further steps to be taken on the path to ecological conversion that Pope Francis invites us to walk.

At 47 pages, Aqua fons vitae is quite a long document. It may be helpful to reflect on it with a group, section by section over time. Perhaps you could start a Zoom book club to read and reflect on Aqua fons vitae with friends? Laudato Si’ Week, World Environment Day, and World Oceans Day could be good occasions to get started.

Dr Sandie Cornish
Publications and Research Officer