BY GUEST BLOGGER | June 9, 2015
written by: Ken Homan, S.J.
Recent news stories reported that Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical is to be named “Laudato Sii,” Latin for “Praised Be” and is expected to be published on June 16th. The encyclical has drawn a great deal of run-up attention. As this is the first encyclical to focus on environment, there can be little surprise about the cause of the anticipation. Additionally, the persona of Pope Francis has added to the buildup.
Some have called the upcoming encyclical revolutionary, while others say that it will fall in line with previous social documents. Either way, it will likely bear great weight. In March, Cardinal Peter Turkson stated in a news conference that the encyclical will have four key themes: we need to be protectors of the environment; the virtue of care for creation; we must care for what we hold dear; and we need a renewed sense of global solidarity. Given Pope Francis’ previous remarks on our “throw-away” society, these themes are unsurprising.
While we know some of the key themes of the encyclical, the finer details will have to wait until its actual publication. This encyclical has the opportunity to spur us to action for a brighter future. With upcoming climate treaty talks, the moral weight of the Church has an opportunity to make a great impact. As I anticipate “Laudato Sii,” I hope the encyclical will contain or do six things:
I hope the encyclical will challenge us spiritually. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the politics and economics of climate change. With the exciting possibilities for action, I have no doubt why. But more deeply, I hope the encyclical challenges us to be more cognizant of our sisters and brothers, and the incredibly love that God has for them. I hope the document challenges me to love the poor and oppressed in the same why Christ has done. Moreover, I believe it will challenge all religious communities to reflect more deeply on our commitment to our faith and how that binds us to the poor and marginalized.
I hope the encyclical spurs politics action. With the climate talks later in the summer, I hope that “Laudato Sii” encourages world leaders to take the necessary steps to fight climate change. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to protect the world. My hope is that the letter also sparks us to act in our local communities as well. We must take both local and worldwide action to successfully fight climate change and environmental degradation. With the values of subsidiarity and global solidarity, I hope this encyclical will stimulate action at both levels.
I hope the letter contains Ignatian language. Anyone associated with Jesuits knows we love catch phrases like “finding God in all things.” For myself, I do a great deal of my prayer outdoors and in nature. I find God in the massiveness of the Grand Canyon and the delicate obsidian glass of Newberry Volcano. Finding God in all things includes the beauty of creation. I hope Ignatian language will help us see the glory of God in protecting nature and fighting climate change.
I hope “Laudato Sii” helps us focus on the poor. The poor stand to be those most negatively affected by climate change. Indeed, as we look at the climate disasters already occurring, the poor have borne the greatest burden with the least resources. Previous climate talks have focused on protecting the world economy and national security. I hope that Pope Francis’ words will place special protection and care for the poor and the front and center of all climate and environmental discussions. The poor are at the center of God’s heart and so must be ours.
I hope the encyclical makes us consider more than climate change. Climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental, social, and economic threats we face today. Climate change has many sister issues that threaten our world and also need attention. Across the world, mining and oil are destroying homes and sacred spaces. Smog is making air unbreathable. Trash is devastating oceans and other natural habitats. I sincerely hope that the encyclical causes us to stop and consider the full environmental ramifications of our actions. We cannot continue living this throw-away culture in any way or form.
Finally, I hope the encyclical inspires you. The world needs you to take action, to be creative, and to be hopeful. Pope Francis has already spoken of “The Joy of the Gospel.” The joy we find in each other and protecting the world is absolutely pivotal. If we act only out of anger or fear, we will quickly find burnout and despair. I hope the encyclical fills us with dreams and desires, joy and exultation. Then can we truly give glory to God and find hope in protecting the world God so deeply loves.