Last June 18, 2015, the much awaited Encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment, Laudato Si’, was officially presented in a news conference at
the Vatican. The Pope’s second encyclical’s title comes from a 13th centuryprayer written by St. Francis of Assisi called “Canticle of the Creatures”, which is sometimes referred to as “Canticle of the Sun”. “Laudato Si’”, the repeated phrase in the prayer, is in the original form of a medieval Umbrian dialect from Central
Italy. In English, it can simply be translated as either “Be praised” or “Praised be”.

A writer said, “It’s an encyclical for all ages”. Yes, indeed, since the encyclical covers many themes delving not only on the causes of environmental deterioration, but also encouraging further study and a constructive debate on the best solutionto the many problems affecting our world today. Thus Laudato Si’ can be seen asground breaking in many counts, in seven aspects to be exact.

One, it is the first time a document of its kind has focused on the theme of the environment. Two, its openness to scientific findings is praiseworthy as it draws valuable insights concerning climate change, biodiversity and genetic modification, etc. Three, as the Vatican expert journalist John Allen said, “More than 10% of its footnotes-21 out of 172, to be precise- contain citations of documents from bishops’ conferences around the world,” meaning numerous references from local pastors is unprecedented in the history of papal writings. Four, aside from the traditional Church teaching on nature based on Sacred Scripture, Pope Francis draws our attention to the human roots of the ecological crisis, particularly technology and anthropocentrism. Here he invites us to change our views regarding progress and ourselves. Five, the Pope is innovative in promoting an integral ecology which combines solidarity among men, especially with the poor, and stewardship of the
Earth. He says that solidarity is respecting the dignity of every person which is rooted in his nature. The recurring idea of our (i.e., the whole of creation which includes man) being interrelated or the existence of a universal communion in nature is worth pondering on. Six, the idea of care for the environment includes care for the unborn, concern for the disabled, the prevention of human trafficking, etc. is brilliant since it proves that ecology is all-encompassing. And finally, seven, the
Pope’s proposal for an ecological spirituality anchored on the old adage “less is more” is a sure path to a better world. By living a simple and contemplative lifestyle one can, in the Pope’s words, approach life with serene attentiveness, capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, accepting each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full.

Hopefully the new encyclical may help us recover St. Francis of Assisi’s pristine view of God, the world and man. And once again we can sing joyfully and honestly his prayer: “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun (…) Praise and bless my Lord.”


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