Skip to main content

The Pope doesn't spare Catholic Church priests, calls upon faithfuls to engage on environmental issues

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The long awaited encyclical on ‘environmental issues’ by Pope Francis is finally here! Released on June 18 in the Vatican, the encyclical is certainly not merely a defining moment for the Catholic Church but in fact for the whole of humanity. Entitled ‘Laudato Si’ (Praised be to you!) – ‘on care for our common home’, the first two words of a thirteenth century prayer written by St Francis of Assisi and called the ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ or the ‘Canticle of the Sun’.

The words ‘Praised be to you’ refers several times in this beautiful prayer which praises and thanks God for giving us the whole of creation and particularly for ‘Brother Fire’ and ‘Sister Water’. Pope Francis already set the tone of his papacy when on March 13th 2013, the day he was elected Pope, he took his name from St. Francis of Assisi who is universally regarded as the Patron Saint of the environment and in his identification with poverty and with peace.
‘Laudato Si’ has come in when the world is surely in need of a roadmap. That is why perhaps right from the moment Pope Francis contemplated this encyclical, there have been all kinds of debates, comments and insinuations on what his stand would be. It surely did not need much of a prophet to understand the sum and substance of this encyclical because Pope Francis repeatedly hinted through words and actions of what the contents would be. Together with the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I in May 2014, Pope Francis co-signed a common declaration repenting for humanity’s treatment of the earth. He has been consistent in his defense of farmers who are poor and owned small land holdings.
In his first Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ he had already asserted that ‘there are other weak and defenceless 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. Thanks to our bodies, 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. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations’. (#215)
Above all, the Pope has never minced words in taking on capitalism, the greed and selfishness of a few and the fact that the rich and the powerful contribute significantly to the destruction of our planet. On the eve of the encyclical’s release, Pope Francis very emphatically told a group of pilgrims that they need to receive his encyclical with open hearts. “Our house is being ruined and that hurts everyone especially the poorest among us. My appeal is, therefore, to responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: ‘to till and tend’ the ‘garden’ in which humanity has been placed (cf. Ge.2:15). I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which itself in the line of the Church’s social doctrine”.
At the heart of the encyclical are 3Cs – Caring, Challenging and Commitment.
Caring
In ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls the whole of humanity to be more caring and more sensitive to creation. This, the Pope emphasizes is the duty of every human being in small and big ways. It is therefore significant that in his encyclical he refers to the fact that human beings are stewards of this earth and are entrusted in a very unequivocal way to care for the earth.
Challenges
Pope Francis’ encyclical is all about challenges: the need and importance for a change in lifestyles; to reduce energy consumption, to avert the unprecedented destruction of the environment and very specially to stop using fossil fuels. He challenges the rich and the powerful in a way no one had done earlier; so much so even before the encyclical was released there has already been plenty of heart-burn and resentment from these sections of society. He categorically states, “in the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods, but, as I mentioned in the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, (123) it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. We need only look around us to see that, today, this option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good” (#158)
Commitment
A radical and positive change to what is happening to the earth will not be possible if there is no whole-hearted commitment from every level of society. The Pope does not spare the priests of the Catholic Church and he calls upon them to engage with the faithful on environmental issues. He calls for a new global political authority which needs to shoulder the responsibility ‘of tackling the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions’.
The encyclical is direct and hard-hitting. In the very second para, he writes, “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the systems of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. 
This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (#2). It is timely and it was surely well worth the wait. Now that we have the blue-print to address several ills which are plaguing the world, the one question we need to ask ourselves is whether we individually and collectively have the courage to put the Pope’s vision into action. He questions, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (#160)
---
*Director, Prashant, Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”