“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”
(Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 2)
Beyond the walls of Vatican
Across the globe, the encyclical Laudato Si’ opens an air of freshness beyond the walls of Vatican. Accepted not only by Catholics, but also by other faiths and beliefs, environmental activists, scientists, atheists, among others with an open heart, as Pope Francis encourages. Laudato Si’ is a contemporary document revealing and underlining a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 14), valuable than any other resource materials and scientific papers about the climate crisis.
“The encyclical will send a strong message to every Christian to take a collective action in solving the greatest ecological crisis we ever have,” said Lou Arsenio, Program Coordinator of Ministry on Ecology, Archdiocese of Manila.
Straight from the Heart, Defining Climate Change by Understanding the Common Good
In this Encyclical, Pope Francis speaks from the heart, close to the language “in the margins.” An ordinary person can read the encyclical just like reading a novel, a manual or clear instructions; simple words of wisdom from a once doctrinal-laden chair of St. Peter. A pastoral letter with the purpose: “I will point to 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 policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 16).
In discerning the unimaginable effects of the climate crisis, Pope Francis re-affirms the assessment of his predecessors that “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 15) The end-game is clear and simple, the Church cares for our common home – our common good.
Destroying the Earth, Oppressing the Poor
Ecological stewardship is inseparable with social justice. “We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 53)
Undeniably, the poor are the victims “we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 49)
He criticized existing political, economic and technological structures – stop talking, act now! “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 54)
The encyclical by itself articulated the vision of a Church of the People, where Liberation Theology failed to communicate, Laudato Si’ did present a clear understanding – a new manifesto close to the hearts of the people who made up the 99%.
“We hope this call to action reaches beyond the Catholic Church and into the hearts of everyone who understands the moral obligation we have to protect our resources and those most afflicted by climate change,” as manifested by a statement from Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project.
A Gospel of Creation
Pope Francis proposes a new approach of addressing the climate crisis: dialogue of faith & science, where the manifestation of greed in the areas of economics and technology were proven; faith and science thus far proved to conscienticize our global citizens.
It is through re-examining our faith-beginnings, from convictions along with the living experience of the gospel of life, lived in the written pages of witnessing. “The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 83) From here, our praxis of caring for our common home is grounded on the formative development of our faith-experience – that values the sacredness of everything that exists. “Love the environment, it is from God and love others because your fellowman is the summit of the Lord’s creation,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.
Integral Ecology: towards Conversion, Formation & Action
Quality of life in all elements of ecology: environmental, economic, social, cultural, behavioral, and ‘structural.’ In each, Pope Francis creatively examined areas of failure and proposed growth that will “seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 139)
Pope Francis highlights our ‘human ecology” by emphasizing “the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 155)
“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 161) Thus, Pope Francis demands an ecological transformation:
The need of a global consensus, “Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 164)
The need of a space for Dialogue for the sake of the Common Good among Believers, Sciences, Ecological movements, “the majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity. Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialization leads to a certain isolation and the absolutization of its own field of knowledge. This prevents us from confronting environmental problems effectively. An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in mind that ‘realities are greater than ideas.’ (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 201)
The need for immediate action: “we believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 169)
The need for environmental education, for the first time, the Church offers a comprehensive module that is both formative and holistic: “It seeks also to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God. Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 210) Thereby, creating an “ecological citizenship” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 211)
The need for ecological faith, in the lights and shadows of our climate action “may our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 244) “God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him! (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, no. 245)
This encyclical is for all of us, Praise be to him!