In 2015, Pope Francis wrote a groundbreaking letter to the world titled ‘Laudato Si’’, focused on how humanity can best respond to the unprecedented challenge of the environmental crisis, or as he says simply, how we can ‘care for our common home’.
This was the first time that a pope had ever written an encyclical (a letter to the church) solely focused on climate change and the environmental crisis, making this issue a priority for the church in the twenty-first century. In the wake of this striking letter, the Church throughout the world has sought to seriously engage with this issue, acknowledging the crisis as one of the great challenges of our time.
the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
In ‘Laudato Si’’, Pope Francis encourages us to ‘zoom out’ and get some sense of the context in which we live. Trying to look at the big picture is a difficult task, so he offers a number of different ways of seeing and understanding the world: theological, environmental, economic, social, cultural, patterns of daily life, personal dignity. Each offers a different perspective, but each also shows how deeply connected we are to each other and to the planet. With this wider and fuller appreciation of God’s creation and our place in it, we also find new reasons to act now to protect our environment and renew our common home.
‘If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it.’ Pope Francis, Laudato Si’
Pope Francis is not saying that there is one perfect, ready-made, one-size-fits-all, socio-eco-agri-economic-cultural-political system that can be rolled out tomorrow all over the world that will solve all our problems. It is precisely that kind of thinking that got us into this crisis in the first place. In fact, he wants us to respect our local circumstances and cultural heritages and build from the ground up in a way that integrates every important aspect of life. Laudato Si’ puts ecological and social justice right at the heart of Catholic faith and practice. The encyclical has already made a significant impact, not only in the life of the Church but in scholarly communities across numerous disciplines.