This month marks the one-year anniversary of the release of Pope Francis’ social encyclical Laudato Si’ (“On Care for Our Common Home”), and much has happened in this year.
Since last June, Pope Francis visited the United States, led the Synod on the Family and released a significant document on family life. He made history when he met in Cuba with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and made a great impact on his pastoral visit to Mexico, particularly his focus on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When one considers all that has transpired within the last 12 months — and given the Church’s inherently slow processing of teaching documents in general — it is understandable, even natural, that Laudato Si’ has not yet been given appropriate discussion in our families, parishes and communities.
It is time, therefore, to refocus our attention on that document, recommitting ourselves and our communities to responding.
As Pope Francis appealed at the beginning of the document: “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.”
Such urgency requires an immediate response from all people of goodwill, as Cardinal Pietro Parolin pointed out when presenting the Latvian translation of the text last month. In this talk, the Vatican secretary of state identified three points that warrant additional emphasis.
He emphasized first the concept of “integral ecology,” reminding us that we are all connected: God, neighbor, creation and ourselves, and that caring for our common home depends on a harmony and equilibrium among those four elements.
Second, Cardinal Parolin reminds us of our responsibility in responding to the call toward that equilibrium.
“Each of us is called to overcome our indifference in the face of continuous signs of malaise seen in the natural environment and the cultural one in which we are immersed,” he said, adding that such a response is “not something optional.”
Finally, Cardinal Parolin reminds us that while personal commitment is “essential,” it is not enough. Rather, we must integrate our efforts, working with our local parishes and communities to find ways to best care for God’s creation.
“It is necessary to extend our responsibility to the collective arena, on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity which starts out from the single individual to reach the international community, passing through the various areas of social aggregation at the community, local and national level,” Cardinal Parolin said.
In next week’s pages, OSV Newsweekly will examine what Church organizations have done to incorporate Laudato Si’ in their programs and processes, and we also will be challenged as to how we, as individuals, can respond.
For us to truly live Laudato Si’, we must do so in a spirit of hope. As Cardinal Parolin pointed out, while human beings have the potential to inflict great damage, they also have the “possibility of opting for goodness and truth, and of opening themselves to beauty and the capacity to react.”
It is in this capacity for reaction that each of us then, as individuals and communities, finds our strongest potential for responding to Francis’ call to care for our common home.
Editorial Board: Scot Landry, chief mission officer; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor