VATICAN CITY — In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has issued a lengthy warning on the “destruction of the human environment” that draws on theology and “the best scientific research available today” to challenge all people to be better stewards of creation.

The six-chapter, 184-page document, whose subtitle is “The Care for Our Common Home,” also uses environmental concerns to provoke wider discussions on the deeper questions of human existence, as well as the need to safeguard all creation and all people, however poor, small or vulnerable.

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question at the heart of a document that the Pope directs at all people, not only Catholics.

The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.”

The encyclical frequently speaks on behalf of the poor, while often chastising governments for poor governance and businesses for placing “speculation and the pursuit of financial gain” ahead of the common good.

As per tradition, the encyclical takes its title from its opening words — “Laudato si, mi Signore” — (Praise be to you, my Lord). The words come from the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi that “reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us,” the Pope writes.

He then cites further words of his namesake on creation, stressing that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

The Pope often refers to teachings on the environment from his recent predecessors, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. And, throughout, he draws on previous papal and Church documents, as well as the teachings of some of the doctors of the Church: Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Thérèse of Lisieux and Bonaventure. The 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, a favorite of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is frequently cited, as are statements from various bishops’ conferences.

Rejecting ‘A Throwaway Culture’

Calling on the “whole human family” to seek a sustainable and integral development, the Pope urgently appeals for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In the face of this, Francis criticizes “obstructionist attitudes” and calls for a “new and universal solidarity.”

The encyclical’s first chapter presents the crisis affecting the environment, saying that the Earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” and that its environmental problems are “closely linked to a throwaway culture.”
Climate change, it goes on to say, is a “global problem with serious implications” that represents “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” It notes other factors, such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth’s orbit and axis and the solar cycle, but adds that “a number of scientific studies” show that “greenhouse gases” are released “mainly as a result of human activity.” This unsettled issue is shaping up as a main criticism by analysts.

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the encyclical says, adding that the “worst impact” will probably be felt in developing countries. It goes on to call for the drastic reduction of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, substituting fossil fuels and developing renewable energy.

It points to the “tragic rise in migrants,” escaping poverty caused by environmental degradation, and tackles shortages and the poor quality of water in many parts of the world, saying it is a “basic and universal human right” and that to deprive the poor of water denies them the “right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” The loss of biodiversity and extinction of species are also mentioned.

It speaks of the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, citing the “unruly growth” of cities, the effects of technological innovations and the omnipresence of the media. The encyclical also focuses on global inequality and calls for a “true ecological approach” to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Lack of Leadership

The encyclical draws attention to “weak responses” and a lack of leadership, noting, “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been.” It criticizes a “superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness.”

In Paragraph 60, Francis places the Church in between two ideological extremes: those who “doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” thinking that ecological problems will solve themselves, and those who view mankind as “no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem.”

Early on, Laudato Si also rejects population control as a means of helping the environment, saying demographic growth is “fully compatible” with an integral and shared development.

“To blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical says.

The document then draws on the “wisdom of biblical accounts” in relation to the environment and rejects the notion that, having been created in God’s image and given dominion over the Earth, mankind is justified in having “absolute domination over other creatures.” Furthermore, it says that when we see God reflected in all that exists, “our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.”

In a later section, the document criticizes those who show “more zeal” in protecting other species than in defending human dignity or addressing “enormous inequalities in our midst.” Every act of cruelty “towards any creature is contrary to human dignity,” the Pope writes.

The Gaze of Jesus

Under the title “The Gaze of Jesus,” the document notes that Jesus lived in “full harmony with creation” and that the destiny of all creation is “bound up with the mystery of Christ.”

Chapter 3 is given over to what the encyclical calls technocracy — the dominance of technology over everyday life — and economic and political life. The Pope says this is reflected in architecture that “reflects the spirit of an age.”
He argues for a “bold cultural revolution,” in which society needs to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

Also in the chapter, it says modernity has been “marked by an excessive anthropocentricism” that actually obstructs ways of strengthening social bonds. It calls instead for “responsible stewardship” and says failure to acknowledge the worth of “a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities” makes it difficult to recognize that “everything is connected.”

Failure to protect the human embryo, it says, makes it impossible to teach concern for the vulnerable.

The document further decries a culture of relativism that objectifies others, and Francis stresses the need to protect employment, saying it is “essential” to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”

Laudato Si steps back from issuing a definitive statement on genetic modification, but it does say that a “number of significant difficulties” should not be “underestimated.” It also criticizes those who wish to impose limits on such research, while failing to “apply those same principles” to issues, specifically citing experimentation on human embryos.

Human Ecology

Chapter 4 is given over to “human ecology” and stresses the importance of “relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” It says it is “not a healthy attitude” to “cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” it says, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

Chapter 5 concerns “lines of approach and action,” in which the Pope proposes dialogue to achieve a “broad consensus” on action. He says there is an “urgent need of a true world political authority” to deal with these global problems and that the environment cannot be “adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.”

The final chapter discusses education and spirituality and invites everyone to “ecological conversion” and a “new lifestyle,” even through small actions, such as carpooling and turning off unnecessary lights.

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction,” it says. “If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.”

It also calls for “sobriety and humility.” And towards the end, it says the Eucharist is a “source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Closing Marian Reflection

Ending with a reflection on Mary, the Queen of All Creation, he says that “we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom,” as well as implore St. Joseph to “teach us how to show care” for the world.

The Pope ends with two prayers, one from Basil the Great and the other by Pope Francis himself, to close what he calls his lengthy, “joyful and troubling” encyclical.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent

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  1. Maria 12/11/2015

    Edward, I am sure you are aware that much of what Pope Francis says on climate change is bogus.
    He has disregarded the peer reviewed research of the scientists from The Heartland Inst., in favor of the climate change baloney from the UN.
    Please do address this issue of false teaching.

  2. Teresa 29/04/2016

    i AM REALLY WORRIED he could change the human councience ..
    if we change de 10 commandmenst and the Gospel to a new moral we would be on risk to attemp to our baklance and dignity,
    we should be respectfully to our Sacred Scriptures , if we change one letter the consecuences would be destuctive.

    I really sure that an ecological global agreement would be unforceble to any councience , avoiding the real antropolgy , defended by Jhon Paul.
    If we are worried to look for the earth but we forget to love to our God over all the things, and to fulofill the commandements to love our neihgbors, as family, wife, husband, and if we dont care the purity of our souls, any other ecological commandament will sustitute our councience … braking the lord of God,

  3. Teresa 29/04/2016

    When Francis cites Sant Francis he mentiones that the Earth is Mother

    and I can not find any Magistery on this way,

    but the are many idolatric religions that follows the think that the Erth is a god,

    And there are many New Age ideas in the middle of young religions , sustituing the spirituality in ecologic movements.

    So please let make a seious philosphy study to Laudato Si, regarding COP21, Paris and Africa.

    For me is a really important sign, that a gloobal agreement would be unforcebable , in a similar way that ONU is making unforcebable all idiological laws to the countries.

    so any apparently good law for ecology is taking here as instrument to introduce other moral and polical power to control our education, families and religions .. in order to introduce specially to the not lucky countries, as it is mentione as the 3erd, world … like Africa, which now are really following the Magistery and Doctrine in other terms as Germany for example,

  4. Teresa 29/04/2016

    Sorry just to integrate my proposal to study implications of new kind of human concious as a control way to integrate all religions with out contradictions, as a FALSE PEACE,,, cited on the Biblie

    We can detect if COP21 in connection to Franciscos Speech in Kenia, will promote a change of hearts away form Cristians Roots

    which I transcript in Spanish, my Tog Language.

    «El clima es un bien común, de todos y para todos; […] el cambio climático es un problema global con graves dimensiones ambientales, sociales, económicas, distributivas y políticas, y plantea uno de los principales desafíos actuales para la humanidad» ibíd, 23-25) cuya respuesta «debe incorporar una perspectiva social que tenga en cuenta los derechos fundamentales de los más postergados» (ibíd, 93).

    Ya que «el abuso y la destrucción del ambiente, al mismo tiempo, va acompañado por un imparable proceso de exclusión» (Discurso a la ONU, 25 septiembre 2015).

    La COP21 es un paso importante en el proceso de desarrollo de un nuevo sistema energético, que dependa al mínimo de los combustibles fósiles, busque la eficiencia energética y se estructure con el uso de energía con bajo o nulo contenido de carbono.

    Estamos ante el gran compromiso político y económico de replantear y corregir las disfunciones y distorsiones del actual modelo de desarrollo.

    El Acuerdo de París puede dar una señal clara en esta dirección, siempre que, como ya tuve ocasión de decir ante la Asamblea General de la ONU, evitemos «toda tentación de caer en un nominalismo declaracionista con efecto tranquilizador en las conciencias.

    Debemos cuidar que nuestras instituciones sean realmente efectivas» (ibíd).

    Por eso, espero que la COP21 lleve a concluir un acuerdo global y «transformador» basado en los principios de solidaridad, justicia, equidad y participación, y orientando a la consecución de tres objetivos, a la vez complejos pero interdependientes: el alivio del impacto del cambio climático, la lucha contra la pobreza y el respeto de la dignidad humana.

    A pesar de muchas dificultades, se está afirmando la «tendencia a concebir el planeta como patria y la humanidad como pueblo que habita una casa de todos» (Carta enc. Laudato si’, 164).

    Ningún país «puede actuar al margen de una responsabilidad común. Si realmente queremos un cambio positivo, tenemos que asumir humildemente nuestra interdependencia» (Discurso a los movimientos populares, 9 julio 2015).

    El problema surge cuando creemos que interdependencia es sinónimo de imposición o sumisión de unos en función de los intereses de los otros. Del más débil en función del más fuerte.

    Es necesario un diálogo sincero

  5. teresa 03/05/2016

    Sorry I would like to add
    That I see Francis will recomends to educate in some new ecology concious in the the process of CATHECISM…!

    Actually in Countries as Switzerland or countries in reformist zones…there are no more study for children with questions and answer.

    The risk is to change the heart to Ecology and forget Jesuscriste Teachings in Gospel and Tradition…the cobsequences will be a new Mystic religion with tne prize of our Feith.

  6. teresa 11/05/2016

    Dear Edward

    I am concern about a News in Zenit.. there is a big meeting with many Catholic Directors of Religious orders in Rome.
    The Topic for our sisters is Ecologic!

    Here in Spanish.

    En esta plenaria, titulada ‘Tejer la solidaridad global a favor de la vida’, se quiere abordar el tema a partir de diversos ángulos: el cuidado del planeta, los grandes problemas del mundo, la vida religiosa, la solidaridad y de qué manera vivirla.

    Durante esta asamblea que coincide con el 50 aniversario de la fundación de la UISG, nacida el 8 de diciembre de 1965, “recorreremos momentos importantes de nuestra historia y miraremos hacia el futuro comunicando los primeros frutos de la planificación estratégica” aseguran los organizadores.

    Su actividad es animar el diálogo y a la colaboración entre congregaciones religiosas dentro de la Iglesia y con la sociedad entera, ofrecer programas, encuentros y publicaciones para ayudar a sus miembros en su formación de líderes de las Congregaciones religiosas.

    Se comunica con la Congregación para Institutos de Vida Consagrada y las Sociedades de Vida Apostólica (CIVCSVA), y otros organismos importantes de la Iglesia como organizaciones sociales en cuestiones relacionadas con la Vida religiosa. Asimismo promueve el trabajo en red y la solidaridad entre las religiosas del mundo entero.

  7. teresa 12/05/2016

    Other question

    I am wondering about any idol named Mother Earth because in our Doctrine.. the earth is just material.. with out life and dignity. With out the work of anyone and rain before the existence of Adan the earth had not any plant .

    ..just God formed with this material living beings ..and for Adan through the divine blow ..Adan become a human being similar to the imagen of God.
    So the earth has no dignity.
    Later God byhimself planted a beatiful Garden named Eden this garden was the Tree of the life…and God put Adan there.

    Also when Adan was questioned by God because his desobedience..he punished Adan and condemened the earth.. so the earth become in disorder.. and also God put Adan out of the Garden.

    the sin..violence and mistakes from all people living in the Earth before Noe finished by a big punishment…and just Noe and his justice was the element to make God to say a poeme …a pact with love for us..and the living ..with the rainbow
    no more decisions with water to punish us.. from God.. regarding the universe cycles it looks He will respect cold..or hot TEMPERATURE.. Summer..spring…And blessed Noe his fsmily and asked them to multiplied and make full the earth.

    Again the earth is a beatiful work…His providence is constantly over His Creation.

    Later Abraham was living close to other civilization as Sodoma..

    I met in wikipedia the existence of an Idol.. from neolitic ..1800 time named MOTHER is mixted… is an idol in a museum in Spain ..its characteristics is dametime female and male .

    My opinion is that our Christian civilizacion is now atacked by ancestral Pio XII ..and othe private revelations in our time many entities of the dark will comeback to try to destroy the saints.

    The key is why Pope Francis is interested in Mother Earth? Why is he not judging figures of man in contrary of the Genesis..why is he interested in changing the Vonscience of mistyc cristianity as 2000 years to an other mysticism of earth?
    Transcription of the idol from wikipedia.
    Esta pieza se incluye dentro de la tipología de los ídolos. Hay constancia de la existencia de esas piezas ya desde el neolítico. Han formado parte de importantes ajuares funerarios y se han entendido como auténticas manifestaciones de religiosidad. Estos ídolos que representan divinidades se caracterizan por tener rasgos antropomorfos.

    El Ídolo de Noceda tiene rasgos masculinos y femeninos, y están construidos sobre diversos soportes: arcilla, hueso (construidos sobre pequeñas falanges), marfil, piedra o sobre placas de pizarra (conocidos como ídolos-placa). En muchos de ellos se ve claramente partes del cuerpo grabadas como la cabeza, los hombros, los ojos grandes y redondeados y además presentan una perforación para colgar. Mucho se ha debatido a cerca del significado de estas figurillas.

    La mayoría de los expertos han llegado a un consenso y admiten que este tipo de figurillas aluden a un símbolo que han llamado “divinidad de los ojos” y se relaciona con el culto a esta divinidad. Como estos ídolos suelen representar a una divinidad femenina, aunque en este caso es mixta, se ha identificado con la diosa madre o la diosa tierra de las comunidades campesinas. Se cree que su adoración garantizaba riqueza, fecundidad y buenas cosechas.

    En cuanto al ídolo de Noceda se ve que cumple las características arriba señaladas con la peculiaridad de que ésta representa a ambos géneros. Así vemos que tiene rasgos antropomorfos, perforación para mantenerse suspendida y representa una muestra de religiosidad muy importante para la zona en la que se encontró (Noceda del Bierzo).

    Según los arqueólogos en esta se puede datar sobre el 1800 a.C. (edad de El Bronce) Grabado con un percutor, sus profundas incisiones se plasman sobre una piedra de granito de superficie rugosa, presenta una forma ovoide y algo aplanada por ambas caras. Su altura es de 226 milímetros y su anchura de 197, su grosor de 73 milímetros y la perforación circular que presenta en la parte superior mide 3,5 cm de diámetro.

    Respecto a sus elementos decorativos se ven por toda la pieza, y recorren prácticamente ambas caras, algunos elementos de las dos caras se acaban uniendo. En la cara en la que se aprecia la representación de la feminidad se ve una línea curva que envuelve la perforación, debajo de esta vemos dos líneas oblicuas que podrían ser los hombros y que se rematan en dos pequeñas protuberancias que serían los brazos o los pechos. Además debajo de la perforación y en línea recta horizontal que cruza a otra vertical. Más abajo, poco antes de llegar a su fin esta línea vertical se separa en dos más pequeñas y que harán las veces de piernas.

    Respecto a la cara que representa la masculinidad vemos una línea horizontal justo debajo de la perforación (aparece rodeado por una línea curva) que se interpreta como sus brazos, aparece una línea vertical que divide la pieza desde su perforación hasta el final. Paralelas a esta línea vertical aparecen otras dos que unidas a los “brazos” llegan hasta el final donde se unen con dos líneas horizontales colocadas una sobre la otra.

  8. teresa 12/05/2016

    I am not sure if the Chuch is legitimated to promote a Global the big meeting in Rome nowadays..the Catholic Superior of Monasteries..Schools. are pushed to write magaxines and plans for this global mentality..ecologic and new humananity vision..not really as a Church of Santity.

    GENESIS 11..5-8

    Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

    5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

    8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lordconfused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

  9. teresa 13/05/2016

    Dear Edward I just confirm my theories..

    2001 ONU Mother Earth.. Global… No more 10 Commandmentd

  10. teresa 14/05/2016

    Jhon Paul II and Benedict XVI have made interestings views of Man and Ecology..

    JPII cites Genesis and the commandament of dominate the Earth but in two against him or his neighbor and

    Use the Creation as administrator …in the same as God..because man is created in imagen of God.

  11. teresa 14/05/2016

    Benedits Book of Human Ecology reviewed.

    I can imagen this Ecology manteins the human in the place that God put Adan in His Creation..

    I wish to read it..and compare.. against ecology . globalization anti evangelium

  12. teresa 14/05/2016

    Ecology point of view ..has been developed by both popes…maybe Laudato is based in part of them..

    So the question is which part is based in the Letter of the Earth of ONU 2000 document

    in conection to Speeches to Onu.

  13. teresa 14/05/2016

    Letter of Earth..sorry in Spanish is Carta de la Tierra possibly this one

    The Earth Charter is an international declaration of fundamental values and principles considered useful by its supporters for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. Created by a global consultation process, and endorsed by organizations representing millions of people, the Charter “seeks to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family, the greater community of life, and future generations.”[1] It calls upon humanity to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history. The Earth Charter’s ethical vision proposes that environmental protection, human rights, equitable human development, and peace are interdependent and indivisible. The Charter attempts to provide a new framework for thinking about and addressing these issues. The Earth Charter Initiative organization exists to promote the Charter.

  14. teresa 31/05/2016

    Here it is mentioned that Francis urged to include Ecology for Seminars

  15. teresa 07/06/2016

    Caritas Spain with a new 10 Commandments…

    This is really and atack to the Gosspel

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