Pope Francis' encyclical on ecology and climate, "Laudato Si" ("Praise be to you") on Care for Our Common Home, sends a strong moral message that people recognize their "responsibility, based on the task that God gave human beings in creation: 'to cultivate and care for' the 'garden' in which he settled us."
"This common 'home' is being ruined and that harms everyone, especially the poorest," he said June 17, the day before the Vatican released his encyclical letter. Some media outlets released unofficial copies earlier in the week.
Pope Francis said the encyclical is part of the church's social teaching; the social doctrine of the church takes Gospel principles and applies them to concrete situations in society and public life.
The encyclical's title comes from the introductory phrase to eight verses of St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of the Creatures," a prayer thanking God for the gifts of creation.
Papal statements on the environment are not new, says Rev. Mike Russo, the recently retired Saint Mary's College communications professor who writes the website, the Francis Factor, http://francisfactor.com.
"Both Pope John Paul II as well as Pope Benedict said significant things about care for creation," Father Russo said.
Pope Francis has "gotten more attention because of his pastoral style."
Pope Francis speaks to the global audience as a world leader, Father Russo said, with "moral authority and respect. Very few world leaders do that."
He said he could not recall another papal encyclical so eagerly anticipated.
It does, however, "fall into controversy in the United States, with global warming deniers and those who may not think such a topic is not appropriate for a pope."
Bishop Barber's statement on the encyclical, Laudato Si
Michael C. Barber, SJ
As Bishop of Oakland, I welcome Pope Francis' highly anticipated encyclical letter, "Laudato Si" (Praise be to you), "Care for Our Common Home."
In it the Holy Father is speaking as a pastor offering moral guidance rooted in central Catholic teachings about care for others and care for God's creation. The poor suffer most when we don't responsibly care for God's creation. It's up to us to help them.
The Pope is giving us the opportunity to reflect about a crucial question: "What kind of world do we want to leave to our kids and grandkids?"
God gave us this world, and He asks us to take care of it. It is a gift. I would like to encourage the faithful of the Diocese of Oakland to take time to read, consider and discuss the content of the Holy Father's letter at home and in your parish groups.
This is a teaching document, not a set of policy proposals. Together, let's prayerfully respond to Pope Francis' call for a change of hearts. Let's try our best to live rightly within the world we've been given, and with each other.
Two of the most powerful quotes I've found in the letter are:
"We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us." — (§67)
"A spirituality which forgets God as all powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality. — (§75)
I believe this encyclical will make as profound impact on the world as Pope John XXIII's Letter on Peace "Pacem in Terris," did in 1963. I pray the world will listen, beginning with our own Church and country.
— Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ
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