1. “L AUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi 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. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.1
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Nothing in this world is indifferent to us
3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.
4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”.2 He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an “ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization”, and stressed “the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, inasmuch as “the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man”.3
5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”.4 Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.5 At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”.6 The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”.7 Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”.8 Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.9
6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed “eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”.10 He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence”.11 Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”.12 With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”.13
United by the same concern
7. These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities — and other religions as well — have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.
8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”.14 He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings … to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”.15 For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.16
9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion”.17 As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”.18
10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
11. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.19 His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.20 Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. 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. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.21 Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
13. The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
14. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”.22 All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
15. It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes. This will help to provide an approach to ecology which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings. In light of this reflection, I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy. Finally, convinced as I am that change is impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.
16. Although each chapter will have its own subject and specific approach, it will also take up and re-examine important questions previously dealt with. This is particularly the case with a number of themes which will reappear as the Encyclical unfolds. As examples, I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle. These questions will not be dealt with once and for all, but reframed and enriched again and again.
1 Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.
2 Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 21: AAS 63 (1971), 416-417.
3 Address to FAO on the 25th Anniversary of its Institution (16 November 1970), 4: AAS 62 (1970), 833.
4 Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 15: AAS 71 (1979), 287.
5 Cf. Catechesis (17 January 2001), 4: Insegnamenti 41/1 (2001), 179.
6 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 841.
7 Ibid., 58: AAS 83 (1991), p. 863.
8 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 34: AAS 80 (1988), 559.
9 Cf. Id., Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.
10 Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See (8 January 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 73.
11 Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 51: AAS 101 (2009), 687.
12 Address to the Bundestag, Berlin (22 September 2011): AAS 103 (2011), 664.
13 Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone (6 August 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 634.
14 Message for the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation (1 September 2012).
15 Address in Santa Barbara, California (8 November 1997); cf. John Chryssavgis, On Earth as in Heaven: Ecological Vision and Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Bronx, New York, 2012.
17 Lecture at the Monastery of Utstein, Norway (23 June 2003).
18 “Global Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability”, Closing Remarks, Halki Summit I, Istanbul (20 June 2012).
19 Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis, I, 29, 81: in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 251.
20 The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 6, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 590. 10 11
21 Cf. Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, II, 124, 165, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 354.
22 Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Statement on the Environmental Crisis (5 September 1999).
CHAPTERS OF THE ENCYCLICAL
Chapter One: What is Happening to Our Common Home
I. Pollution and climate change
II. The issue of water
III. Loss of biodiversity
IV. Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society
V. Global inequality
VI. Weak responses
VII. A variety of opinions
Chapter Two: The Gospel of Creation
I. The light offered by faith
II. The wisdom of the biblical accounts
III. The mystery of the universe
IV. The message of each creature in the harmony of creation
V. A universal communion
VI. The common destination of goods
VII. The gaze of Jesus
Chapter Three: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
I. Technology: Creativity and power
II. The globalization of the technocratic paradigm
III. The crisis and effects of modern anthropocentrism
Chapter Four: Integral Ecology
I. Environmental, economic and social ecology
II. Cultural ecology
III. Ecology of daily life
IV. The principle of the common good
V. Justice between the generations
Chapter Five: Lines of Approach and Action
I. Dialogue on the environment in the international community
II. Dialogue for new national and local policies
III. Dialogue and transparency in decision-making
IV. Politics and economy in dialogue for human fulfillment
V. Religions in dialogue with science
Chapter Six: Ecological Education and Spirituality
I. Towards a new lifestyle
II. Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment
III. Ecological conversion
IV. Joy and peace
V. Civic and political love
VI. Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest
VII. The Trinity and the relationship between creatures
VIII. Queen of all creation
IX. Beyond the sun
VATICAN CITY, May 20 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Pope Francis asked those gathered for the Pentecost Vigil Mass at the Vatican to chant Christ’s name instead of his own, highlighting his role as Christ’s vicar on earth.
“From now on no more ‘Francis,’ only ‘Jesus,’ alright?” he asked rhetorically during the Pentecost Vigil Mass said May 18 at Saint Peter’s Square.
“All of you in the square shouted out ‘Francis, Francis, Pope Francis,’ but where was Jesus?” he admonished them. “I want to hear you shout out ‘Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and he is in our midst.’”
During his homily, he spoke to the more than 200,000 people gathered from ecclesial movements from around the world.
The Pope told how his grandmother was the first to pass on the faith to him, and insisted that a person’s faith begins through their family.
“I received my first Christian proclamation right from this woman, from my grandmother. That is something beautiful,” he exclaimed.
“The first proclamation is in the home, within the family. This makes me think of the love of many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith,” he said.
He told mothers to conscientiously transmit faith to their children, because “God puts people alongside us who help our journey of faith.”
He also told how, at the age of 16, he felt a sudden urge to go to confession one day. It was there that he heard the call to priesthood.
“After the confession I felt that something had changed, I was not the same. I felt a voice call me, and I was convinced that I had to become a priest.”
“This experience of faith is important,” he added. “We say that we must seek God, go to him to ask for forgiveness but when we go, he is waiting for us, he is the first one there.”
Attendants had posed four questions to the pontiff, which he answered during his homily. The first question inquired about how he has achieved “certainty of faith” and how he would guide each of them to “overcome our fragility of faith.”
“Fragility’s biggest enemy, curiously enough, is fear. But do not be afraid,” he advised. “We are weak, we know it. But Jesus is stronger and if you are with him, then there is no problem.”
The second question given him was on the challenge of evangelization for ecclesial movements and how to effectively communicate the faith in today’s world.
“If we push ahead with planning and organization – beautiful things indeed – but without Jesus, then we are on the wrong road. Jesus is the most important thing,” emphasized Pope Francis.
The pontiff underscored the importance of prayer and “letting God gaze at you.”
He said that he prays the rosary daily, but often “nods off” in front of the tabernacle. “But he understands me. I feel so much comfort when I think that he is looking at me.”
The Bishop of Rome underscored the need for letting one’s self be guided by God. He reflected on St. Peter’s vision of “the sheet with all the animals,” when Christ told him to eat non-kosher foods, Christ having made them clean.
Though St. Peter was at first reluctant and did not understand, “some non-Jews came to call him to go into a house, and he saw how the Holy Spirit was there.”
“Peter was guided by Jesus to reach that first evangelization to the Gentiles,” Pope Francis said. “Be guided by Jesus’ own leadership,” he urged.
The third question was concerning suffering, and how the movements may address it for the good of the Church and of society.
“When the Church becomes closed in on itself, it gets sick,” Pope Francis said, appealing to people to “not close in on themselves, on their own friends and movements.”
“Think of a closed room, a room locked for a year, when you go in, has a smell of damp,” he said. “A Church that is closed in on itself is just the same – it is a sick Church.”
When Christians are “starched,” speaking “of theology calmly over tea,” rather than being courageous and encountering non-Christians and the poor, the Church is sick, he said.
The pontiff believes people cannot rest in peace knowing that a starving child is not news worthy.
“We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea, we have to become courageous Christians,” he said.
Catholics must themselves reach out to the poor and assist them on a personal level, he stressed.
“A poor Church for the poor begins with going to the flesh of Christ,” which he called the poor.
Personally helping the poor, for Pope Francis, is a theological response to Christ’s own poverty. It is a loving response to God’s own solidarity with us, since he “humbled himself” and “became poor, walking with us on the road.”
He also emphasized the danger of letting worldliness creep into the Church. “There is a problem that is not good for Christians: the spirit of the world, the worldly spirit, the spiritual worldliness.”
The final question asked of the pontiff regarded how Catholics can help and support those who are persecuted for their faith.
“We must try to make them feel, these brothers and sisters, that we are deeply united to their situation,” he said, highlighting the importance of praying in solidarity with them.
“In the prayer of every day we must say to Jesus, ‘Lord, look upon this brother, look at this sister who suffers so much,’” he concluded.
God shares wonders with us each day. Stop! Look! See! There are wonders all around you.
They shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they are my people, says the Lord God. You are my sheep; the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord God. Exekiel 34, 30-31
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my song be pleasing to God, for I rejoice in the Lord! Psalm 104, 33-34
Lead me from death to LIFE, from falshood to TRUTH.
Lead me from despair to HOPE, from fear to TRUST.
Lead me from hate to Love, from war to PEACE.
Let PEACE fill my heart, my world, my universe. Amen!