posted at www.diocesetucson.org
Last week, Pope Francis released a much anticipated Encyclical on the environment, titled Laudato Si’ (the first Encyclical titled in Italian and not Latin). I will quote directly from the rich text of the document, because I believe it very clearly illustrates the essence of the Holy Father’s sentiments. Throughout the document Pope Francis speaks of a connection between the care of creation and the call to bring to every human person the dignity each deserves.
"The Encyclical takes its name from the invocation of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Praise be to you, my Lord” which in the Canticle of the Creatures reminds us 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).
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). “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” (2). Her cry, united with that of the poor, stirs our conscience to “acknowledge our sins against creation” (8). Taking the words of the “beloved” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Pope reminds us: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity … by causing changes in its climate …; to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”(8).
These words outline very beautifully our relationship with our planet and its vast array of resources, bestowed on it by the Creator. These paragraphs also adeptly and boldly define how horribly we have treated this precious gift of God, our home, the garden.
The document is very detailed, as is the custom of most Encyclicals. Overall, it is wise to remember that the document is not a scientific treatise. Its goal is not to make a political statement, but the Holy Father speaks as a pastor from a moral perspective. The Encyclical re-emphasizes for us the age-old teachings of the Church grounded in the Word of God that call us to care for all of God’s creation; to gather and use resources wisely and with restraint and without exploitation for excessive personal gain, to preserve those resources and to share those resources with one another now, and to tend to safekeeping of the Earth and her treasures for the future.