Wednesday 17 June 2015 at 12:40What To Expect From The Encyclical
Tomorrow, Pope Francis will release his papal encyclical, Laudato Sii (English translation: Praised Be) on the environment to the world.
In a year of unparalleled importance for climate change because of the key UN meetings in Paris this December, his timing couldn't be better.
Just in case you didn’t know: a Papal Encyclical is one of the most significant official documents the Pope can release, and it signals real concern from the Vatican.
Releasing this encyclical five months before the Paris talks ensures it has the most impact possible. For 20 years, world leaders have failed to make progress at these talks, but this year, we’re hoping the encyclical might be the spark they need.
The encyclical isn’t just significant for the Catholic community. It will be a banner for people of all faiths and none, lifting up the moral and spiritual call for action on climate.
With an eye to the Pope's past speeches and writing, here are some of the likely themes, with some points of connection to other faiths:
THE EARTH IS A GIFT FROM GOD
This theme is integral to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—all which share an understanding of God as a magnificently generous creator. Human beings must act as the stewards and protectors of this order. Human power over Creation must always be used with care. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam offer variations on this theme, rooted in Biblical creation accounts and from passages from the Qur'an. Hinduism and Buddhism, with their traditional teachings on ahimsa (non-violence), consistently emphasize that it is our dharma (duty) to treat the natural world with respect. The moral need to protect the earth is strong across all faiths.
THE POOR AND EXCLUDED SUFFER THE WORST EFFECTS OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS
Consistent with the Catholic notion of "the preferential option for the poor," Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the vulnerability of the poor to environmental crises. In line with the teachings of every major religion, he will urge leaders to protect from environment-related devastation those who have been "excluded" from the world economic system.
LINKING NATURE'S DESTRUCTION WITH GREED
Pope Francis has consistently criticized the current economic order as a greed-driven, "throw-away" system, in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer. The Pope will likely be clear that he is not anti-capitalist; he's anti-greed.
POLLUTION AS STRUCTURAL SIN
In 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church became the first major religious leader to call pollution sinful. We expect that Pope Francis will take this a step further, describing nature's degradation not only the sin of individuals but also the "structural sin" of the society, whose large-scale systems result in harm to both nature and people.
Pope Francis has said many of these things before, so not all of the encyclical will come as a surprise. What will be new is the depth of support the Pope provides on this issue, showing that unchanging spiritual teaching can adapt to address these great turning points in human history.
How we can support the Encyclical?
Around the world people will be celebrating the launch of the encyclical, and in Rome there will be a gathering of thousands of people, to show the massive support for the encyclical.
We need to make sure that in every town and city around the world, people are sharing the incredible message of Pope Francis’ Encyclical in public, and the need for his words to turn into action this year. Vigils, marches, sit-ins, and prayers meetings —any way we can to make this as big as possible.
Given the critical importance of 2015, all faith leaders should do the same, urging world leaders to commit to halting the destructive trend represented by climate change and creating an authentically prosperous future for all. We live here and only here. It's our home. Our only one. We must protect it.
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