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Laudato Si’: Care of Creation as the New Social Issue

After the encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS) was published, not only many have begun to call Pope Francis the “Green Pope”, but also, in the Summit on Climate Change in Paris of 2015, the countries seem at last to have progressed towards concrete measures to safeguard the planet. Many “blame” – in a positive sense – Pope Francis’ activism on the subject. Let’s see.

In his encyclical Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis considers: the need of faith to collaborate and awaken a critical sense; of science not to reduce nature to formulas and to marvel itself at the mystery of Creation, widening the horizons of reason. As Pope Francis says, the view of science can benefit from faith, by being open to reality in all its riches (cfr. LF, 34).

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Pope Francis outlines four important issues: an approach focused on the Creation as a living being (no longer the concept of Nature); the consubstantiality between man and other creatures together with their mutual fragility; the criticism of a voracious and predatory economic system; the need of intergenerational solidarity as an expression of a love engagement proposed to humanity.

Francis affirms that “there are other weak and defenseless living beings who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation. I am speaking of creation as a whole. We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures…God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (EG, 215).

In Laudato Si’, care of Creation is presented as a new social issue. The encyclical letter of the Holy Father Francis appears as a climax reflection that allows this new social issue to be completely integrated within the Social Magisterium of the Church.

Which are the novelties of Laudato Si’?

Laudato Si’ is not just a mere synthesis – in the sense of a compilation or summary of what is being said about the environmental crisis -; it brings new concepts and paradigms for understanding.

Going deep to the novelties of the document of the Holy Father we could highlight:

  • The discovery of a new social issue of global dimensions linked to the crisis of Modernity;
  • Which due to its causes and effects should lead to a new conceptualization of the “ecology” from an integral perspective, it should lead to an “Integral Ecology”;
  • Placing the “Creation” (much more than the idea of nature or environment) at the core of this new social issue;
  • Rethinking the Earth as “Mother Earth”, as a vital body, nursery of Life”, in accordance with the Judeo-Christian tradition and the indigenous peoples ones, and no longer as a result of physical-chemical phenomena;
  • Leaving the idea of unlimited progress in an environment that is not unlimited, and shifting toward new models of production (cfr. LS, 22).
  • Finally, as there is an intimate connection between what man produces and what man is, the solutions to the environmental crisis involve the Conversion of man himself.

A global change towards the Creation sustainability should consider a “green” conversion of all humanity.

Such “green” (ecological) conversion implies a successive – not linear – series of “conversions”, whose dimensions reach the personal, social, cultural spheres, and include the political and economic conversions, necessary for an effective transformation of the unjust realities. This “ecological” conversion – in Pope Francis’ words – can be represented as the already mentioned circular model of conversion (figure 1)

It remains to be urgent the establishment of a new international order in which the unequal relations between rich and poor countries should be abolished. The defense of nature cannot be an “end” itself, and must be oriented to equity, preserving the balance of Creation.

The scale and speed of the Globalization process should be redirected toward transformations and a positive recovery of the environment and, above all, it should be at the service of man, as the Church often expresses.

No country can go on its own on a matter that has to do with other countries as well. For that reason, it is very important that the agreements become a concrete policy, where everyone feels committed to the future of all.

Finally, the underdevelop countries need specific tools to strength capabilities that enable them to deal with the environmental crisis and lead toward a sustainable development, considering man as a morally relevant creature …where hunger and exclusion do not take place, where it is worth living.

We can affirm that Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis, could have in the near future (if it does not already have it) the same relevance as the one Leo XIII’s Encyclical “Rerum Novarum” had in that historic moment.