The world-wide interest, pre-publication, in the Encyclical Laudate Si was amazing, and the introductory passages of the actual encyclical are inspiring. However, the central messages of the encyclical stem from the grim situation today of our common home, the Earth, as grounded on the conclusions of the majority of contemporary scientists.
It is reassuring that the encyclical is more than pious or purely theological rhetoric in that Pope Francis has himself a scientific background. A recent cartoon here in Australia showed an Australian Senator declaring that the Pope should leave comments on climate change to the scientists, with a counter-declaration from Francis saying that he was a scientist – he had a Masters in Chemistry!
For those of us who have been following the literature and debate on climate change and other environmental issues, we will find much of the first part of the encyclical familiar. What may be less familiar is the way in which Francis stresses the connection between ecological concern of care for our common home, the Earth, and issues of social justice such as care for the poor of all species of being, including human. With “Mercy” as one of his dominant clarion calls, this encyclical is surely destined to become for us a highly significant document among the contemporary documents of Catholic social teaching.
Francis, for example, ties the reality of climate with the social ethic notions of the common good and water as a basic universal human right. He also urges for dialogue between science and religion. In furtherance of this latter he examines various aspects of our faith tradition that will help we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions. As our Australian Mercy Constitutions remind us, we are committed to
listen to the voice of the Spirit,
speaking through the sources
that all Christians learn to recognize:
the wondrous presence within creation,
the scriptures, the voice of the Church,
the signs of the times, the events of our lives,
the needs of others.(3.32)
Fundamentally, the pope is calling us to an ecological conversion. As conclusion, he offers two prayers which – though we might wish for a more gender balanced
language – could move us towards that change of heart and behaviour.
In the words of Elizabeth Johnson’s Ask the Beasts (p278), joining in the songs of praise as uttered by Earth’s creatures in the psalms and other scriptures and in the Laudate Si of Francis of Assisi may actually allow these other creatures help us pray.
Prepared by Anne McLay rsm and members of the Care for Creation Group
Responses to: email@example.com