Laudato Si’ is unique in many ways. It is addressed to “all people of good will” (No. 62) and Pope Francis states that “I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” (No. 3) It is also distinguished by the fact that it is intended to provoke both dialogue and action. (No. 16)
Make no mistake about it this encyclical is not about a “quick fix.” (No. 179) Instead, it sets out an agenda for our time here on this planet, observing that the environment “is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next.” (No. 159)
Setting forth a litany of major ecological problems that need to be dealt with the Pope lists: pollution, climate change, water, loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality and comments that, “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” (No. 25)
“As Christians,” the Holy Father reminds us, “we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale,” recognizing, in the words of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, that we must “look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms.” That will require “replacing consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.” (No. 9)
What the Pope is calling for is nothing less than a change in worldview, a monumental task that must begin with each of us who shares in spoiling our common home. We must acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and accept our share of the blame. The structural causes of ecological disintegration must be acknowledged and addressed collaboratively on a global basis. Unfortunately, as Pope Francis observes, “Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good. (No. 198)
“There is no one path to a solution.” (No. 60) There is no magic bullet. Through prayer and dialogue we must collectively work toward a comprehensive solution to save our God’s creation, our common home.
Laudato Si’ is not a doomsday proclamation but it sets out an agenda for a generation. As the Holy Father writes in his closing prayer: “May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (No. 244)
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