A prophetic encyclical
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
As a Franciscan friar, I rejoice for the prophetic encyclical which bears the title Laudato Si’ mi Signore, “Praise be to you, my Lord”. The title comes from the beautiful canticle composed by St Francis of Assisi who praises God for “our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. Through this great canticle, St Francis is encouraging us Catholics that our faith makes us more aware of our responsibility within creation and our duty towards nature and the Creator.
Basing itself on the best scientific findings available now, Laudato Si’ says that pollution and climate change, the unfair distribution of goods, water deprivation, loss of biodiversity, deterioration in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society portray the prevailing global ecological situation.
However, the Bible, with its Judeo-Christian tradition, proposes the “tremendous responsibility” of humanity for creation.
“The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone.”
Abdicating from such responsibility means sinning gravely against God, our neighbour and our Mother Earth itself.
Christian faith, philosophy and the human sciences identified excessive anthropocentrism which fosters a technocratic domination mentality that is responsible for the destruction of nature and the ruthless exploitation of the most vulnerable populations. Hence, “an approach to an integral ecology… needs to take account of the value of labour”.
Laudato Si’ reminds us that “to stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society”. The encyclical says that integral ecology “respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings”.
Integral ecology brings forward the ecology of institutions because “the health of a society’s institutions affects the environment and the quality of human life”.
Human ecology is intrinsically grounded on “the notion of the common good”. This implies committing oneself to make choices in solidarity based on “a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters”. Is this not the best way of leaving a sustainable world for our future generations?
Internal ecology brings about quality of life such as public space, housing, transport and so forth. It also means that accepting “our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home”.
Regarding the environmental crisis the world is facing, Pope Francis recommends the kick off of an honest dialogue embracing social, economic and political life that construct transparent decision-making processes.
Proposals for dialogue as well as action should involve both individuals and also international policy.
The Holy Father boldly encourages “honest and open debate, so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good”.
When discerning which policies and business initiatives best accomplish “genuine integral development”, an appropriate environmental impact study of new “business ventures and projects demands transparent political processes involving a free exchange of views”.
Pope Francis exhorts those who hold political responsibility to put aside the mentality of efficiency and immediacy and instead “attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility”.
Every project is really beneficial when it is backed by a formed and responsible conscience. Therefore, since ecological conversion and training are essential, it must be emphasised that “change is impossible without motivation and a process of education”.
Education is imparted “at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere”.
Education “aim[s] for a new lifestyle”, which informs consumer choices to opt for environmental-friendly products.
A key virtue that the encyclical Laudato Si’ champions is sobriety: “Sobriety is liberating”. Sobriety helps us “regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world and that being good and decent are worth it”.
What does this topical encyclical say to us Christians, clergy and consecrated people, non-believers, politicians, entrepreneurs and people of goodwill? How does it inform our way of living and acting?
This is the continual examination of conscience that all of us must do without further delay thanks, of course, to this prophetical encyclical.