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June 18 Laudato Si - Caring for our common home

Today in 2015, the ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si was published. Building on the body of the Church’s social teaching it continues the kind of reflection on modern-day problems that began with Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum,” on capital and labour, and John XXIII’s “Pacem in Terris,” which addressed the crisis of nuclear war. "Laudato Si,” which addresses a newer urgent crisis - caring for our common home. The early drafts were written by Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, and finessed by the Pope - it is stark, warning us that thanks to our actions, the earth has begun to look more and more like, in Pope Francis’ vivid language, “an immense pile of filth”


Addressed to "every person living on this planet" it is an appeal for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. The tone is one of both hope and resolve, looking to our common future with candour and humility. The title is taken from the first line of the encyclical, which is unusually in Italian rather than the normal Universal Latin. This is because "Laudato si', mi Signore," or "Praise be to you, my Lord." Are from the words of a canticle, by the Italian mystic Saint Francis of Assisi. He talks about our the world, our common home, nature, as like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. The environmental dialogue that has come to dominate concerns about humanities future had been dominated by political, scientific and economic language. The encyclical inserted the language of faith clearly, decisively and systematically. Particularly its understanding of creation as a holy and precious gift from God, and its systematic spiritual approach was seen as providing fresh insights. The perspective of the poor is one the central themes of the encyclical, as the impacts of climate change are felt by those living in the developing countries who have fewer financial resources that enable them to adapt to climate change. The encyclical, builds on Catholic social teaching to critique the exclusion of anyone from benefits of the goods of creation (see pod of May 15 ) .

Divided into six chapters providing a thorough analysis of human life and its three intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour, and with the earth: It calls for a “broad cultural revolution” to confront the environmental crisis. It criticises the “technocratic” mindset, in which technology is seen as the “principal key” to human existence. The footnotes in the encyclical, indicate an unusual array of sources for the encyclical including a dystopian science fiction novel by Anglican convert Robert Benson. The encyclical critiques an unthinking reliance on market forces, in which every technological, scientific or industrial advancement is embraced before considering how it will affect the environment and “without concern for its potential negative impact on human beings” It also criticises “extreme consumerism” in which people are unable to resist what the market places before them, the earth is despoiled and billions are left impoverished. Still, the encyclical is hopeful, reminding us that because God is with us, we can strive both individually and corporately to change course. We can awaken our hearts and move towards an “ecological conversion” in which we see the intimate connection between God and all beings, and more readily listen to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” - It is a call for metanoia - conversion.

Vatican observer John L. Allen Jr., said in an analysis, "Laudato si' seems destined to go down as a major turning point, the moment when environmentalism claimed pride of place on a par with the dignity of human life and economic justice as a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. It also immediately makes the Catholic Church arguably the leading moral voice in the press to combat global warming and the consequences of climate change. Three days before the encyclical was released, the 14th Dalai Lama issued a Twitter message stating: "Since climate change and the global economy now affect us all, we have to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity." The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, welcomed the encyclical in a statement on the day it was released I applaud the Pope for his strong moral and ethical leadership. We need more of such inspired leadership. The encyclical gave a boost to the fossil fuel divestment movement. An editorial in Nature praised the encyclical for its statements about sustainability and global poverty and the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources: but criticised it for remining silent on issues of contraception. With a world population heading towards a possible 10 billion, the importance of family planning is clear. The Vatican has been brave on climate change. If it is serious about the fate of the planet and the welfare of its inhabitants, then it must be braver still on the issue of contraception.


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