No punches pulled in Climate Change Encyclical

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pope Francis pulls no punches in Climate Change Encyclical

The care of the Planet is at the heart of The Holy Father's attention in this Encyclical

1533868_838329846249672_1185197550952132137_n“Praised be You, my Lord, for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, for Brother Wind and Sister Water, for Brother Fire; praised be You, my Lord, for our Sister Mother Earth, our common home, which sustains and governs us.” (Adapted from the Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi.)

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question that is at the heart of Laudato si’ (May You be praised), the Encyclical on the care of the common home by Pope Francis.

“This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal”. This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values at the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues – says the Pope – I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results”.


“The economic powers shall continue to justify the current world system, in which speculation and and the aim for financial returns to prevail that tend to ignore each context and the effects on the environment and on human dignity. So clearly it reveals that environmental, human and ethical degradation are intimately connected,” the Holy Father also wrote in this letter to the faithful.

“Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and this entails considering the setting in which people live their lives. These settings influence the way we think, feel and act. In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity. We make every effort to adapt to our environment, but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.”

This Encyclical takes its name from the invocation of Saint Francis, “Praise be to you, my Lord”, in his Canticle of the Creatures. It reminds us that the earth, our common home “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. We have forgotten that “we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”, according to the expression of Saint John Paul II. We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At the same time, Pope Francis recognizes that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet”. A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home”. “Men and women are still capable of intervening positively”. “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”.

Pope Francis certainly addresses the Catholic faithful, quoting Saint John Paul II: “Christians in their turn “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith”“. Pope Francis proposes specially “to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home”. The dialogue runs throughout the text and in ch. 5 it becomes the instrument for addressing and solving problems. From the beginning, Pope Francis recalls that “other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have also expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections” on the theme of ecology. Indeed, such contributions expressly come in, starting with that of “the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew”, extensively cited in numbers 8-9. On several occasions, then, the Pope thanks the protagonists of this effort – individuals as well as associations and institutions. He acknowledges that “the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all […] have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions”. He invites everyone to recognize “the rich contribution which the religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity”.

While the Holy Father is, in this Encyclical, primarily, obviously, addressing the Catholic faithful, and those of other Christian traditions also, the message is for all of us, whether of a faith or none, and also and especially for those who think themselves in power to lord it over us.

In the light of the message of his Encyclical the Holy Father has already been declared the most dangerous person on Earth by a great many of American politicians, especially in the Republican Party. No surprise there that they do not like the Pope's message as (1) they are climate change deniers to the hilt and (2) they see the Holy Father as the Antichrist (and I kid you not there).

Several main themes run through the text that are addressed from a variety of different perspectives, traversing and unifying the text:

*the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet,

*the conviction that everything in the world is connected,

*the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology,

*the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress,

*the value proper to each creature,

*the human meaning of ecology,

*the need for forthright and honest debate,

*the serious responsibility of international and local policies,

*the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.

"Laudato si' – Pope Francis' Encyclical on care for our common home can be downloaded as a PDF file here...

© 2015