It is always surprising to hear someone speak of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ as if it were a radical new teaching. It always tells me that the speaker has not read the encyclical, for the Holy Father goes to great lengths to root his encyclical in the teaching of his predecessors, in the tradition of other Christian bodies and on the history of the Church.
Early on he recalls the writings of his patron St. Francis of Assisi, and his belief that “Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically,” (LS10) and in his opening chapter quotes from his beautiful Canticle of the Creatures: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs” aided, the Pope goes on to say, “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.” (LS 2)
Then addressing his encyclical to “All Persons Living on the Planet” Pope Francis recalls that Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.(Octagesimo Adveniens)
He then reminds us that “Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical, he warned that human beings frequently seem ‘to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption’.(Redemptor Homines) Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.” (Catechesis – 17 Jan 2001)
Continuing in tracing the consistency of Church teaching, the Holy Father recalled that his “predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed ‘eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment.'” ( Address to the Diplomatic Corps – 8 Jan 2007)
Then, after stating that “These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities –and other religions as well –have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing.” (LS 7)
Finally quoting his friend and confrere, Bartholomew, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, he writes, ““For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life –these are sins…to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”. (Patriarch Bartholomew’s Message for the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation – 1 Sep 2012).
The Pope adds that the Patriarch goes on to say that in spite of the consistent pleas to protect our common home, “’Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation’”.
I hope you will join me in pausing on September 1 to join in the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and perhaps think of ways you can personally help to maintain and nurture this precious gift from God.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish