On June 18th, the Vatican officially released Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment: “Laudato Si’.” Truth be told, I have not actually read the document myself; I am basing my own observations on the analysis and commentary of others, whose opinions I trust. Chief among them is John Allen, Jr. of Crux who has done some analysis on the encyclical.
The theological analysis of the document I have; comes from Father Dan Horan OFM, of Dating God, who gives a Franciscan perspective on the encyclical. The other comes from Jay Michaelson, of Religion News Service. He brings out some of the theological points in the document that he considers truly radical.
As a Franciscan, the theological points that grabbed my attention were found in Chapter 2: “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbors, and with the earth itself.” And in Chapter 3: “Our ‘dominion’ over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.” To Western ears these statements may seem very strange, but they are not new. If one was to get beyond the image of St. Francis of Assisi as a statue holding a birdbath, one can see a Francis who knew that because of his intimate relationship with God, he had to have an intimate relationship with all people, and all creation. Joined intimately with Christ, through the Gospels, through the Eucharist, and prayer, he was fully open to, and accepted the reality that he shared a kinship with all people, with all creatures, with everything that exists.
Francis passed this realization on to his followers, through his words and his actions. Sadly, some of his children did not realize the depth of his teaching, but in recent times, we are finally beginning to get the point. In our Secular Franciscan Rule, we have Article 18: “Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High, and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.”
It is this idea of “universal kinship” that Pope Francis is calling on the world, on all of us, to realize, and to act on. It is a call to change our way of life, that is abusing our earth, and live in ways that will enhance our planet.
I do plan to read this encyclical myself, and hopefully I will be able share my own insights with you soon. Pace e Bene!