The International St. Francis ”Canticle of the Creatures” Prize for the Environment (Premio Internazionale per l’Ambiente San Francesco “Cantico delle Creature”) is a solemn recognition awarded to personalities or institutions that stand out for the study, promotion and regulation of the relationships that link humanity, nature and sustainable development. The reward of exemplary initiatives has a two-fold aim: i) increase in all social classes the consciousness of the difficult problems that challenge the human consortium and ii) stimulate the public opinion to think about the route mankind has to follow to arrive at a more harmonious relationship with nature.
The Prize is divided into three sections:
“Education, Training and Communication” recognizes and reports the merits of personalities and institutions that are devoted to training of individuals and experts and to furthering respectful behaviors of the dynamic processes of our planet; have contributed to the education and formation of an environmental culture in men and women of all ages; have offered complete and correct information on the responsibility of Man with respect to Nature.
“Scientific Research” recognizes and reports individuals, study Centers or Institutions that contributed to a more precise and complete understanding of the secret mechanisms that rule the planet, thereby urging the maximum commitment to their protection.
“Works and Concrete Actions” recognizes and reports personal projects or institutional actions that have resulted in a real improvement of the relationships man has with the environment and/or have prevented the destruction of the resources necessary for life on the planet.
The Prize consists in a sculpture created by Master Mario Ceroli. It represents the terrestrial globe surmounted by an arch of solar rays that reproduce the profile of St. Francis in Giotto’s fresco.
The Origin of the Prize
Ever since the second half of the XX century, international organizations as well as the cultural and academic circles of different countries started envisaging the need for a global approach to the complex problems that mankind has to face. Many relevant worldwide initiatives have followed one another with the aim of reflecting on the relationship between social and economic development and its consequences on the environment. It suffices to mention the 1972 UN Conference in Stockholm, the establishment of IIASA and the development of the “Club di Roma” wanted by Aurelio Peccei, the 1992 UNCED Conference in Rio de Janeiro, that in Johannesburg, and the FAO General Assemblies starting from 1996.
The Italian initiative to confer the International Prize for the Environment St. Francis “Cantico delle Creature” is part of this international debate. The Prize started in 1989 on the basis of an agreement between the Franciscan Center of Environmental Studies in Rome and the Sacro Convento in Assisi with the participation of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Prize was awarded every year in Assisi from 1990 to 1993 and was interrupted until 1997 when it was conferred in Rome. The prize was interrupted again due to the definitive leave from Italy of Father Bernard J. Przewozny, one of the major promoters of the initiative together with prof. Giovanni Battista Marini Bettòlo, who had died before then.
Since 2005, the President of the National Academy of Sciences prof. Gian Tommaso Scarascia Mugnozza and the Custode of the Sacro Convento in Assisi S. E. Father Vincenzo Coli, decided to re-establish the Prize in its three sections: “Education, Training and Communication“, “Scientific Research” and “Works and Concrete Actions“.
The ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ gives a rare synthesis regarding all co-protagonists of the environment: the stars, light and heat, the atmosphere and the air, the earth, soil and its resources that reach the geological depths, water, fire and the energy sources, plants, animals and Man. The brotherhood of St. Francis of Assisi with all the creatures, the humility and poverty that inspired his behavior, the uninterrupted praise of the Almighty for the invaluable gifts of nature, are qualities that have been greatly appreciated by environmentalists and scientists and have been taken as an invitation to solve the ecological problems.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Francis patron of the ecologists and of whoever shares their cause and inspiration.
Prizes awarded from 1990 to 2007
National Geographic Society, Maurice Aubert, Amintore Fanfani, Salvatore Furia, Tom Malone, Republic of Costa Rica, International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya), Fredrick Herbert Bormann, Bindeshhwar Pathak, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, Ramon Margalef Lopez, Maurice Strong, Giovanni Battista Marini Bettolo Marconi, AMBIO – A Journal for the Human Environment, British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Conferencia Nacional Dos Bispos Do Brasil, Niu Wen Yuan, Bioversity International, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.