What I learned from Francis: If we care for the planet we care for ourselves


The Catholic Social teaching from inception to the digital age. How to live the Laudato si’.

“I was delighted to see how Laudato Si’ has been well received by entrepreneurs and academics,” commented Peter Rožič SJ, Director of the Jesuit European Social Centre. Back to Brussels from a conference, in which he met the Pope, at the Vatican, Fr. Rožič explained more about the event called “The Catholic Social teaching from inception to the digital age. How to live the Laudato si’,’” organized by Centesimus annus pro-Pontifice foundation.  

From June 6 to 8 religious but most lay people, working in business, education and finance, gathered to discuss problems and solutions about ecology and world economic models. For example, in the last 50 years of incessant growth, GDP and happiness have been shown as inversely proportioned as demonstrated by Professor of Economics Jeffery Sachs from Columbia University during his presentation at the Vatican. A concept repeated, with different words, by Pope Francis. Addressing the participants to the conference he stated: “The dominant paradigm is part of a spiritual disorder, with the self at the centre of reality and will and desire to dominate both society and nature. Connected with this are not just selfishness and greed, but also the externalisation of ecological and social costs,” to the developing countries.

Fr. Rožič, what impression did the Pope make on you? 

This was my first time meeting the Pope. It has been an inspiration and honour to pray for him, as he always asks at the end of his speeches, and for a good outcome of the Laudato Si’ conference at the Vatican, that will have two follow-up events. I hope and plan that such events will take place at least in Brussels and Madrid, with the help of JESC. 

What part of the Pope’s message remains with you? 

The need for conversion. I understand that it is a constant call to liberation and a response towards the next generation. We have an economic growth and consumerist model that is in slavering us. If we burn the planet we burn ourselves. If we care for the planet we care for ourselves. 

At the conference, Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of the UN Environment International Resource Panel talked about the Circular economy. What is it? 

Janez Potočnik showed us the importance of changing current economic models by following the simple idea that we are part of nature. The environment is not just a simple background setting in our lives. As in nature, there is no waste, so it should be in the human world. He explained recycling models that can be applied to organic and technological material. I thought his presentation, drawing from the insights of Laudato Si’ was brilliant. 

Another important point in common between the Vatican and the UN is the desire of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

With some important exceptions, the Catholic Church shares the purpose of these UN goals of eradicating poverty, hunger, violence, fear, and disease, although the methods can be different. The goals also have the ambition to promote literacy, equality, human rights, education, and physical, mental, and social well-being. According to Pope Francis concept of integral ecology, most of these points are absolutely related. 

At the event, His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson offered his interpretation of Laudato si’ through the seven “C”. What are they?  

  1. Continuity – the document is a continuation with the church’s social teaching and its dogma, 
  2. Collegiality – the data provided by this conference are meaningful for the bishops to work together. 
  3. Conversation, – actions coming from this document can only come from dialogue.
  4. Cooperation – the Pope is calling various actors to work together, 
  5. Care –  it’s not about ‘owning’ creation but caring for it, with Caritas. 
  6. Conversion –  highly emphasised by the Pope
  7. Contemplation of creation – we are invited to contemplate the creation and pray with it and for it. 

Why did Centesimus annus pro-Pontifice organise this conference? 

Centesimus annus pro-Pontifice is a foundation named after John Paul II’s Encyclical “Centesimus Annus”. I was been invited by Josina Kamerling, the Coordinator of the CAPP Brussels chapter. The organizers would like to promote the Pope’s work, members of the foundation have been writing essays for one year, the best papers have been selected for this convention. Above all, they want to disseminate the knowledge about Laudato Si’.

Did you learn something new?

I was struck by the impact of Laudato Si’ on businessmen that are now striving into clean energy, global sustainability goals. Stock exchange businessman wants to financially support the application of Laudato Si’ capacity building. Moreover, as the current economic model is not sustainable, there is a need for a radical change, the conversion called for by Pope Francis. Such a turn requires everybody’s commitment at the international, national, but most importantly at the individual level. 

by Susan Dabbous

JESC Communications Assistant