Laudato si’: On care for our common home

A Press Conference was held on 18 June 2015 in the New Synod Hall in Vatican City, for the presentation of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato si’ On care for our common home”. The speakers included:

  • Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, here;
  • His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church, here;
  • Prof. Hans Joachim (John) Schellnhuber, Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, here; and
  • Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO and President of Catholic Relief Services and former dean of the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, U.S.A, here; .

Additionally there was additionally a Testimony from Dott..ssa. Valeria Martano, here, [in Italian]. The English version of the Encyclical is available here, and the accompanying reports on the Press Conference from Il Bollettino and the Vatican Information Service, (VIS) are here and here. As we observed in our prequel to the presentation, some aspects of the Encyclcial had already been trailed in the public domain:

  • Speaking after the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis indicated that the Encyclical was to be addressed to everyone, “every person living on this planet”, [3];
  • As the reference to St Francis’ Cantico delle creature in the title would imply, the Encyclical would not be restricted to climate change issues, [20], although this is probably the area in which it will have most impact;
  • “the common good” is a well-documented component  of Catholic Social Teaching, and Pope Francis expands this to a consideration of climate-related issues, [23] .

Catholic Social Teaching includes a number of quotations relevant to the environment made in earlier Encyclicals: Mater et Magistra, (1961); Pacem in Terris  (1963); Populorum Progressio, Peoples” (1967); Sollicitudo rei Socialis, (1987); Centesimus Annus (1991); and   (2005). Although the 1971 Synod of Bishops statement Justicia in Mundo  is not an encyclical or Papal document, it is regarded as one of the major international Catholic Social Teaching documents.

In addition to these statements of earlier pontiffs, TIME magazine charts the occasions on which Pope Francis himself has made statements which have: argued humanity is responsible for the Earth; linked environmental problems to capitalism; stated that pollution hurts poor farmers. Significantly, he cited his namesake as a model on how to treat the Earth:

“It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”

Laudato si’ – On care for our common home

The Encyclical comprises six sections and concludes with two prayers:

  • What is happening to our common home, [17-61]
  • The Gospel of creation, [62-100]
  • Human roots of the ecological crisis, [101-136]
  • Integral Ecology, [137-162]
  • Lines of approach and action, [163-201]
  • Ecological education and spirituality, [202-246]A Christian prayer in union with creation, [179]
  • A prayer for our earth, [178]

The Vatican Information Service, (VIS), has produced an Overview of the Encyclical Laudato si’ which highlights “the main themes running through the text that are addressed from a variety of perspectives”:

  • 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.

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In the Catholic Herald, Stephen Bullivant commented “[d]ay-of-release blog posts are likely not the best place to attempt – or look for – considered commentary on so significant a magisterial event as a papal encyclical”. We agree, and our analysis of this 184-page document will follow in due course.


Comment from the Church of England

The Church of England has welcomed the Encyclical, and issued the following statement:

“Church of England Welcomes Climate Encyclical

18 June 2015

The Church of England’s lead on the environment, Bishop of Salisbury the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has given a wholehearted welcome to today’s Papal Encyclical on climate change.

Bishop Nicholas said:

“I wholeheartedly welcome the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si, a major contribution to tackling climate change, which is one of the great moral challenges of our times. It has been much anticipated and lives up to our hopes that it would be a very substantial and compelling document not just for Roman Catholics but for the whole Church and all people who live together in our common home.

“Pope Francis highlights the iniquitous way in which the enormous consumption of some wealthy nations has repercussions in the poorest places on the planet. What is bad for our neighbours is also bad for us.

“We are seeing significant ecumenical and interfaith convergence on climate change. The Papal Encyclical is a substantial development of themes very much in line with statements made by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches, the Letter on Climate Change from the Swedish Lutheran bishops as well as by the Church of England and the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network and others. As we saw yesterday with the launch of the Lambeth Declaration, the moral gravity of the challenge of climate change is also recognised by all the world faiths present in the UK.

“The transition to a low carbon economy is urgent. Churches and other faith communities have a unique power to mobilise people for the common good and change attitudes and behaviours. We also need to strengthen our politicians to achieve ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements, nationally and internationally.

“The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted how important this is when he spoke at the Vatican Summit on climate change in April. If people of faith and all people of goodwill work together, there is hope that we can meet the challenges posed by climate change.””

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Laudato si’: On care for our common home" in Law & Religion UK, 18 June 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/06/18/laudato-si-on-care-for-our-common-home/

2 thoughts on “Laudato si’: On care for our common home

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