Laudato si’ (“Praise be to you”) is the second encyclical of Pope Francis and only the third statement ever made by a pope on the environment.
Subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home”, His Holiness makes a powerful call to action on climate change.
The title Laudato si’ is taken from ‘A Canticle of Creatures’ by St Francis of Assisi and as Pope Francis said: “reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”
Written in six chapters, the encyclical (so named because it is a letter, in this case to everyone) reflects the story of Genesis where the Pope asks for “a conversation that includes everyone”.
“I think the central idea was that it was to be a reawakening of people’s social consciousness,” said Anthony Cleary, Director of Religious Education and Evangelisation for the Catholic Education Office Sydney.
“Often we ascribe value to material things, the status of position, financial wealth, but I think he is calling us to value the things that are omnipresent – the environment and our wanton neglect of it at times,” said Mr Cleary.
The impact is not felt so much by the developed countries as the developing countries and inequality is exacerbated.
“You’ve got examples of countries such as the United States shipping their garbage to the Philippines, and the rising sea levels acting on Oceania, for example,”
Mr Cleary said like the Al Gore documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (released in 2006), the Pope was reminding us of that and how we have been selfish and expedient and seen resources through the lens of exploitation.
“The Church actually spoke about the dangers of environmental degradation 40 years before Al Gore, we were talking about it in the 1960’s and saying there are serious issues here,” he said.
There has been one earlier Papal encyclical on the environment by Pope Paul VI – ‘A Call to Action’ in 1970, then in 1990 Pope John Paul II issued a ‘World Day of Peace’ statement describing the ecological crisis.
Ultimately, said Mr Cleary, the Pope’s calling on us to rethink what it is to be human, how that impacts on others and our relationship to the world around us.