LAUDATO SI: FIVE YEARS ON
Five years ago, on 20th May 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical letter: Laudato si: on care for our common home. Although previous popes had written about the environment, this was the first encyclical devoted exclusively to humanity’s place in creation.
An enduring image for me during the COVID-19 era is the expressed wonder of a person in northern India, turning to the media camera and pointing to the snow capped Himalayan mountains exclaiming, ‘Look, the mountains, no pollution, the first time I’ve ever seen them!’.
There is hardly need to explore the massive challenges for humanity and creation now. The media and public discourse are replete with issues of pollution, global warming, deforestation, species extinction, rising sea levels, famines, environmental degradation, drought, floods and excessive carbon emissions.
If humanity is to be responsible participants within the earth community, how might we engage in the dynamics of the earth’s sustainability? Does humanity need an ecological conversion? Do Christians need to anchor their spirituality as eco-spirituality within God’s loving providential care?
This is what Pope Francis in Laudato si is calling upon all people to do – not just Christians but everyone to be passionately involved in this great enterprise of living harmoniously within the life energies of creation. The six chapters of Laudato si focus on this core theme: Ch 1: What is happening to our common home? Ch 2: The gospel of creation Ch3: The human roots of the ecological crisis Ch 4: Integral ecology Ch 5: Lines of approach and action Ch 6: Ecological education and spirituality.
How might Laudao si be a beacon for us now in 2020? What are some features of the encyclical which call us to action through the appeal of Pope Francis: The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (n 13)?
Let us review some of the highlights of Laudato si and after five years since its proclamation, ask ourselves how much have we achieved in its implementation?
From the urgings of Laudato si I would suggest the following themes call us into transformation and actions for justice:
- Ecological conversion (n 216 – n 221): a shift in consciousness about us within the web of life in creation, rejecting dualism but experiencing a profound interior conversion (n 217) to the Gospel of Creation.
- A lived reality of interconnectedness, communion and Trinitarian (n76,79, 89-92, 238-240). We are all in this together, including our affinity with all species. Modern science, especially quantum physics shows how connectivity is integral to every facet of the universe.
- Celebrating the mystery and wonder of creation (n 76 – 84). God’s primal revelation was God’s embodiment within creation 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang or Flaring Forth. Every single creature has its own purpose within an evolutionary cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. Most species become extinct within this mysterious and inexplicable cycle.
- An integral ecology must involve space and time to recover one’s place and identity within the dynamics of creation. Humanity’s identity cannot be in any patriarchal or lording over role but an authentic belief that my humanity and life styles must acknowledge my being is within not outside creation (n 225). Anthropocentrism is to be replaced by biocentrism.
- Christians are called to work diligently with every single social group or communal agency to foster sustainability and holistic earth care. Unbridled capitalism, patriarchy, selfish nationalism are confronted by specific and communal actions for justice and the principle of the common good (n 125- 162).
- Confronted with an avalanche of doomsday ecological predictions, a Christian is a person of hope. Such a hope emanates from a profound belief in a God who loves and saves. However such ecological salvation will not happen by mealy mouth cosy words about beautiful butterflies but, for example, how can these people get water to drink?( Ch 5)? Why not start my planetary citizenship in my own home?
How well have we done in the implementation of the message of ‘Laudato si’ during these last five years?
Where to now for immersing the wisdoms of Laudato si into our lives as members of the earth community?
About Kevin Treston
Kevin Treston has been a teacher, author and consultant in pastoral ministry for over 50 years. He obtained a PhD from the university of Notre Dame (Indiana), and pursued post-doctoral studies in Chicago, Boston and Washington. Kevin is a member of the Association of Practical Theology Oceania. He currently lives with his wife Kathryn in Brisbane.