By Bishop Kevin J. Farrell
Publisher of The Texas Catholic
Pope Francis’ long-awaited and much-heralded pastoral encyclical, Laudato Si’ was released June 18 calling for “Global ecological conversion” based on limiting the use of non-renewable resources and re-use and recycling of materials to preserve resources for present and future generations.
While it is a pastoral and not a political document, it nevertheless calls for dialogue on the issues with which it deals; climate change, pollution and the need for a radical change in our relationship with our planet earth. It is sure to trigger a spirited international response.
Taking its name Laudato Si’ (Praise be to you) from the first line of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation, the encyclical, like the canticle, emphasizes that “creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.” ¶76*
Referring to the Canticle’s reference to “sister earth,” the beginning of the encyclical reminds the readers that, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” ¶2
Identifying climate change as “one of the principal problems facing humanity in our day,” the document predicts, “Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades,” and will be particularly devastating to the poor whose living is often solely dependent upon “natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.” ¶25
Pollution of air, water and the environment caused by hundreds of tons of waste generated through the years, much of it non-biodegradable, has, according to the encyclical, caused the earth “to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”¶21 The problem is, “closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish.”
Laudato Si’ is really an examination of conscience and asks of each of us: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” ¶120
In my opinion the importance of this encyclical as Christian teaching and as a wakeup call to the reality of an impending ecological catastrophe cannot be overstated. I plan to devote a number of future blogs to Laudato Si’ and the significance of this important papal encyclical.
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell is the seventh bishop of Dallas. Read his blog at bishopkevinfarrell.org/blog.
* Denotes number of paragraph cited from Laudato Si’.