An encyclical is a circular letter containing authoritative papal teaching. Laudato Si’ is a social encyclical, meaning that it teaches about the state of society, building on a tradition that began with Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891. What’s new in Laudato Si’ is that Pope Francis says that concern for the environment is no longer optional, but an integral part of Church teaching on social justice.
Pope Francis says, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time, protecting nature.”
“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? … It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”
Pope Francis says that to solve the issues facing us today, we must think of ourselves as “one world with a common plan.” Finally, he asks us to begin “redefining our notion of progress,” explaining that “a technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” He calls each of us to a new lifestyle and stresses that education and training are key to real transformation.
Pope Francis reminds us that we need to care for creation through our daily actions, to give thanks to God before and after meals, and to contemplate God in nature as well as through the Eucharist. We must pay attention to our usage of water and our resources. We must care for one another and place the interconnectedness of all creation above all else. “As believers, we do not look at the world from without, but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us with all beings.”
(From “Pope Francis – On Care For our Common Home” by Our Sunday Visitor)