(Malgorzata Wrochna. 2012. St Francis of Assisi)

2. Encyclical on the Environment: Laudato Si’ – On Care for our Common Home: Pope Francis 2015

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.10 Spiritual Responses
Page
1.10 .2

This is in many ways an extraordinary document. Stretching to 42, 000 words it covers sources from, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Bonaventure, as well as St. Thomas Aquinas, but also to Eastern Christian traditions. It even quotes a Sufi Mystic. Twentieth-century thinkers Teilhard de Chardin and Romano Guardini deserve special mention. Secular documents such as the Rio Declaration from 1992 and the 2000 Earth Charter are referred to as well. The reader is also struck by the many references to previous papal writings, particularly those of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The relationship between Francis and his predecessors on ecology is strong.”1

The simplest and most powerful summary I can find of such a huge document is contained in its statement:

“If we approach Nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.”

There is so much here that is redolent of the explorations and responses of the artists, naturalists and scientists elsewhere in Section 1: the necessity of a feeling of ‘awe’, or ‘wonder’, or ‘beauty’. The essential need for a recognition of ‘the other’, of Nature, of life.

Reading the whole document provides a very interesting introduction and summary to many spiritual and secular responses to the environment, but as this is obviously a considerable task, the best and clearest summary I can find is contained at: Summary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment – DiocesanPriest.com . This excellent website has not only an overall summary, but also chapter summaries and key quotes from the document with accompanying notes. It enables interested readers to access the encyclical at a level appropriate to them.

I have dipped in and out of the encyclical and overall found it a most informative and enlightened document. The only major section I don’t agree with is that on overpopulation in Chapter One, paragraph 50. Sadly, yet again, the issue is avoided and displaced and the old either/or chestnut that a recognition of the environmental consequences of overpopulation equals a disregard of the importance of inequality and consumption, is presented yet again. It is sad, indeed, that such an otherwise intelligent, thoughtful and ‘modern’ work could present such an old, tired and false dichotomy (or trichotomy?).

For a further discussion of the positive and negative effects of Christianity on our relationship with the natural world, see Articles 1.1.4 and 1.1.10, Paintings 1.7.1, and Music 1.6.3.

 

1 https://thejesuitpost.org/2015/06/an-overview-of-laudato-si/

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