An encyclical is a letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. However, Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si is addressed not just to the world’s one billion Catholics, but to the whole global population. It has generated much comment and will continue to do so.
Martyn Goss, Director of the Council for Church and Society at the Diocese of Exeter, has given his own reflections on the Papal Encyclical (July 2015):
Pope Francis has published a significant and far-reaching letter with his encyclical Laudato Si (Praised Be): On Care for Our Common Home. He analyses how the global economy with its obsession on short term financial gain is actually in danger of undermining the very life-supporting processes which sustain known life on earth.
Fundamentally, it examines how scientists and others see global warming as having grave implications especially for the most vulnerable peoples and places on the planet, who already feels the deadly consequences of poverty and inequality. The poorest contribute least to the problem but suffer the worst effects, as aid agencies have been telling us for decades. The reasons behind all this are our dominant means of production and consumption.
All of this calls for more radical and deeper actions – more than technological fixes and especially for a stronger role for non-government organisations, civil society and the world’s faith communities.
Unlike many official environmental documents, it uses the word ‘ecology’ and looks at the inter-connectedness of the challenges we face (pollution, habitat loss, water depletion, land use, biodiversity decline, climate instability), and calls for joined-up solutions especially between scientists, businesses, politicians and religious leaders.
Themes of the encyclical
- The intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet
- The conviction that everything in the world is connected
- The critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology
- The call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress
- The value proper to each creature
- The human meaning of ecology
- The need for forthright and honest debate
- The serious responsibility of international and local policies
- The throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle
Normally, papal documents are addressed to the bishops of the Church or the lay faithful, but here the Pope addresses his message to all people: “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home…”