“Laudato Si, On the Care of our Common Home”, Pope Francis’ newest Encyclical
Pope Francis’ newest encyclical, Laudato Si, published on 18th June, is one of the most astonishing papal document of the past 100 years, since it is addressed not just to Catholics, or Christians, but to everyone on earth. It sets out a programme for change that is rooted in human needs but it makes the radical claim that these needs are not primarily greedy and selfish ones. No previous pope has devoted an entire encyclical to the environment.
Moreover, Pope Francis has said he wants it to “make a contribution” to a Paris summit on climate change at the end of this year. The pope’s huge popularity and moral suasion means his stance could influence the debate. Pope Francis calls global warming a major threat to life on the planet and says it is mainly caused by human activity. He argues there is an “urgent” need for policies that reduce carbon emissions, among other ways, by “substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
It highlights the depletion of clean water and the loss of biodiversity. The 183-page encyclical includes an extensive section on Catholic theology of creation and critiques of economic globalization and consumer culture. Emphasizing his signature theme of economic justice, Pope Francis focuses on the unequal social effects of environmental problems on the “most vulnerable people on the planet.”
We need nature, he says, and we need each other. Our need for mutuality, and for giving, is just as real as the selfish aspects of our characters; the need for awe and stillness in front of nature is just as profound as any other human need. The care of nature and the care of the poor are aspects of the same ethical commandment, and if we neglect either one, we cannot find peace. The environment, in the pope’s use of the word, is not something out there: nature as opposed to the human world. The term describes the relationship between nature and humans, who are inextricably linked and part of each other. It is that relationship that must be set right.