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placeholder September 5, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
JST dean explains Laudato Si' relevance
in South Asian context

Rev. Thomas Massaro, SJ, discussed how Pope Francis' landmark encyclical, Laudato Si' relates to South Asia to a standing room audience on Aug. 20 at Newman Hall, Berkeley.

The mostly Indian and Sri Lankan Catholic members of the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute invited Father Massaro to give this "Care for Creation" lecture to celebrate the one year anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si' and also of the canonization by Pope Francis of the Indian-Sri Lankan Saint, St. Joseph Vaz (1651-1711), both in 2015.

Father Massaro, former dean of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, is on sabbatical to write a new book on the social teachings of Pope Francis.

A South Asian context was created to show the relevance of Pope Francis' message to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other countries in that region suffering from ecological damage. Rev. Shantaraj Thomas SJ, a doctoral student at the Jesuit School from India, showed a video of the pollution of the Ganges River and other sites in the region and the climate change caused by the irreparable destruction of forests and biodiversity hotspots.

Father Massaro called Laudato Si' the most important papal writing of all time. This is a "social encyclical" which is a universal teaching for "all people of goodwill" and which applies to all regions of the world.

In Laudato Si', Pope Francis begins by reviewing the state of our Common Home (planet Earth), the views of the Gospel about Creation and the human roots of the present ecological crisis. The encyclical offers actions, including the need for ecological education and spirituality.

Father Massaro then reviewed the development of Catholic teaching about a "creation-centered" model in our dealings with the natural world.

Father Massaro called attention to three environmental teachings Pope Francis emphasizes in Laudato Si'. First, that we all have a solemn duty to respect the right of all people to clean drinking water. Second, the preservation of biodiversity must be a strong social priority. And third, all currently living humans have an ecological obligation both to future generations of humans and to all future living things, with whom we are called to live in solidarity.

The lecture concluded with a discussion by an interfaith panel of Bay Area religious leaders speaking about their different faith perspectives on Creation, Nature, and our responsibility toward them.

They included representatives of the California Interfaith Power and Light, Vedanta Society of Northern California, the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of Lama Norbu, and Sister Shalet Mendonca of the Bethany Sisters, India, a doctoral student at the Jesuit School, who spoke about her work in empowering women religious to respond to Laudato Si'.

Learn more about the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute at www.josephnaikvaz.org.

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