Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home, said all creation is singing God's praise but people are silencing it.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home, said all creation is singing God's praise but people are silencing it.

June 29, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Pope Francis has called for "a bold cultural revolution" that will sweep away consumerism, myths about unlimited economic growth and the desire to constantly maximize profits.

Human activities based on those habits and beliefs are destroying the planet, the pope said in his encyclical Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home, dated May 24, Pentecost Sunday, and released at the Vatican June 18.

"The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth," he wrote.

The pope criticized market forces for not only being unable to protect the environment, but for fostering the greed and compulsive consumerism that has created massive ecological problems.

Such consumerism, he added, may lead to "violence and mutual destruction" given that only a few people have access to the fruits of an economy that depends on endless growth.

The pursuit of short-term profits leaves a trail of environmental devastation which affects poor and marginalized people more than others, he said.

Pope Francis also criticized an attitude of denial toward climate change and other problems as well as "a false or superficial ecology" that fails to come to grips with the sources of the environmental crisis.

Developed nations need to drastically change, not only their lifestyles, but also their methods of production and consumption, he said.

The pope calls for a variety of political changes, including "a true world political authority" that, among other responsibilities, would protect the environment.

However, he is concerned "the myopia of power politics" stands in the way of political solutions since elected officials are often most concerned with their short-term political prospects.

SELFLESS ECOLOGY

Rather, the greatest hope lies in locally-based actions, such as the common action of citizen groups, as well as people living virtuously out of "a selfless ecological commitment," he said.

He rejects the idea that the actions of individuals and local groups will be ineffective. "We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread."

The pope, in perhaps his most radical statement, said a failure to respect creation is a failure to respect the Creator. How we relate to the natural environment reveals the respect we have for God.

"Creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion," he said.

A CARESS OF GOD

"The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God."

Pope Francis praised the example of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, whose Canticle of the Creatures is the source of the "laudato si'" (praised be you) in the encyclical's title.

St. Francis lived a simple lifestyle which honoured creation and refused to turn it into "an object simply to be used and controlled," the pope said.

The encyclical includes a large section of the saint's canticle as well as two prayers penned especially for the document.

FUTURE GENERATIONS

The pope upholds the moral principle that humanity ought to be concerned about the natural environment it will leave for future generations. However, he turns it from a moral principle into a spiritual one.

"This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal," he wrote. One who faces the question with courage is led to ask: "What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?"

Confronted by such questions, a person should look beyond his or her own interests and see human reality as a communion.

"Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others."