(A brief summary)
Pope Francis’ new Encyclical ‘Laudato si͛’ asks us to reflect on the world that we are living in, not just on the environmental issues but also about social issues affecting our world.
The name means ‘Praise be to you’ and comes from St Francis ‘Canticle of the Creatures.’ It reminds everyone that the earth, our common home, is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us (1). He writes that people have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (2).
He asks the question – what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? (160). Then he follows through with some deep searching questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? He states: “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results (160).”
Pope Francis invites us to change direction by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of caring for our common home, to protect nature and work for the common good: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home (13). Men and women are still capable of intervening positively (58). All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start (205).”
To help address the issue he encourages dialogue about our common home, (3) between Churches, Christian communities and ‘other faiths as well’ (7). He acknowledges the contribution of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups and invites everyone to recognize the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity (62).
The Encyclical is divided into six chapters:
- Ch. 1 – presents the current situation based on the best scientific findings available today
- Ch. 2 – a review of the Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition .
- Ch. 3 – The root of the problems in technocracy and in an excessive self-centeredness of human being are analysed.
- Ch. 4 – proposes an integral ecology, which respects both human and social dimensions (137).
- Ch. 5 – Pope Francis proposes to initiate an honest dialogue at every level of social, economic and political life, which can build a transparent decision-making processes.
- Ch. 6 – Puts forward ideas to aid growth in this direction at the educational, spiritual, ecclesial, political and theological levels. Praise be to you!
In an RCIA group maybe read some of the texts from the encyclical and ask the questions:
- What world do we want to leave to our children?
- What are the environmental and social issues that affect our lives?
- What can we do about it?
Finish with a prayer that is used in the Encyclical
A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.