You may have heard a stir in the news that pairs the pope and climate action. Maybe you are like me, and you find that pairing very encouraging.
Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato sii: On the Care of our Common Home, is a teaching document for leadership of the Church, but also for Catholics as a whole. Encyclicals generally discuss important aspects of Catholic Doctrine.
This pope chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron of ecology. In this encyclical, he discussed the strong foundation in Catholic doctrine for climate action. He emphasized the importance of “renewed attention to the situation of environmental degradation, but also of recovery.”
His pastoral call was simple – to live into our call to stewardship, and “grow in the responsibility towards the common home that God has entrusted to all.” It is a significant invitation to care for creation. Not only to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but to all people of faith. It is a well-founded moral appeal to be thoughtful and act accordingly.
As a Catholic, I appreciate Francis’ special attention to naming the deep interconnection of environmental stewardship and care for the poor. Care for creation encompasses both.
To stir hope for the future, he didn’t focus on technology or science, but on ethical transformation and commitment to what is at the heart of stewardship. There is real wisdom in acknowledging our contribution to the problem of climate change, and working for and with each other to right the wrong.
Leading up to the release of the encyclical, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said the document would likely highlight climate change as "a moral issue," pointing out that the poor suffer the most from consequences of improper care of the environment even though "they have contributed the least to climate change."
The most vulnerable members of our local and global communities are disproportionately impacted by the pollution that drives climate change as it is made. The health risks and extreme weather and temperatures characteristic of a changing climate also put them at greater risk. As stewards of creation, we have a distinct responsibility to care for each other, by caring for the land, water, and natural resources on which our communities depend.
Whether you live in a small town or urban area, climate change impacts all of us. We are knit together. Each of our contributions to climate change affects the whole. That is what Pope Francis’ encyclical is about. Our moral obligation to care for all creation, and a hopeful call to action.