No document by any Pope in the past fifty years has attracted as much attention as Laudato Si’. This attention is by no means confined to Catholics or even believers. It has filled a need for an “ecological charter,” and it commands both the respect and the gratitude of people who have no particular faith commitment, but who recognise in it a vision for the future of humanity on this earth.
Laudato Si’ talks about the hard scientific facts. It looks at political structures and the working of the economy. It is severely critical of the damage being done by short-sighted policies and exploitative business practices. It also looks at the need for personal conversion, community and education. It is rooted – passionately so – in an explicit faith commitment but, with that same passion, calls out for dialogue and solidarity among all people of goodwill.
No political movement, no economic analysis, no artistic expression can come close to the comprehensive vision offered by Laudato Si’. It is quite explicit in presenting the issues in terms of faith and theology but manages to do this in a manner that invites dialogue. This rootedness in the faith is part of its appeal. It indicates that Pope Francis is speaking from a place of depth and passion which is a sign of his sincerity. An invitation to dialogue, if it is to be a true welcoming, has to come from this kind of depth. Otherwise, dialogue remains in the shallows and never fully engages those who participate.
Another welcoming note in the encyclical is his critique of what he calls “rapidification.” He speaks of “the continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet” and of how this is coupled “with a more intensified pace of life and work.’ His basic message is that the pace of life is too fast and we need to slow down! It’s good to hear this being said. We need to stop and reflect. We need to get off the crazy merry-go-round. This is the driving force behind the sick profit-making which is eating away at the foundations of our common home.
The final touch is the name itself – Laudato Si’. Praise You! The predictions about rising temperatures, rising tides, air quality and biodiversity are dire and Pope Francis wants to draw our attention to the full reality. Yet he never loses sight of the fundamental “why” of the project he is calling us to. We want to take care of our common home because it is beautiful and life-giving and loved by the Creator who looks at it all and sees that it is ‘very good!’
Laudato Si’ has only been with us for five years. It will continue with us on our journey.
Editorial for EcoBites by Edmond Grace SJ
Secretary for Ecology