By Paul Dobbyn
POPE Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ will provide “a voice that can rise above the politics, economics and ideologies of climate change”.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, speaking shortly before the release of the encyclical said, “we need a voice that can rise above those pressures and speak in a way that’s both realistic and humane”.
“That’s the voice that Pope Francis will be,” he said.
Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt said Laudato Si’ would move Catholics’ responsibility for protecting the environment “to a new level of importance”.
“Pope Francis’ predecessors have made statements on the environment but this encyclical will give more detailed clarity around our responsibility,” he said.
“We all know many Catholic individuals and organisations are already doing a lot, but the encyclical will focus on fundamental considerations such as use of resources and consumption patterns including use of water, electricity and material resources.
“It’s the commission’s hope all Catholics – individuals, parishes, schools – will be open to learning and, more importantly, acting on the teaching the Pope presents in this encyclical.”
The encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Praised Be), was to be released on Thursday, June 18.
Its title comes from a hymn of praise by St Francis of Assisi that emphasises being in harmony with God, with other creatures and with other human beings.
Archbishop Coleridge said Pope Francis “will draw upon the rich biblical resource and will speak the language of the Gospel”.
“He will focus on the dramatic effect of climate change on the poor – whom he has pledged not to forget but who are often forgotten in the climate change debate,” he said.
“The Pope will focus not only on the ecology of the natural world but also on the ecology of the human world.
“This will mean identifying the ways in which we treat both the creation and its inhabitants as commodities.
“The world isn’t just a commodity to be exploited in any way possible; nor are human beings.
“But such exploitation goes on, and its effects are devastating.”
Mr Arndt, who left for the Solomon Islands last week to discuss the impacts of climate change on people in the Pacific, said the CJPC was already looking at ways to implement the encyclical’s teachings.
“We’ve been asking schools to share their stories of ways in which they are caring for the environment,” he said.
“Story suggestions include the installation of solar panels or water tanks in schools; leading community support for faith-informed policy changes and helping people in the Pacific affected by climate change to adapt.”
The CJPC is also planning meetings with various Church bodies throughout Brisbane archdiocese to discuss ways to spread the Pope’s teachings on environmental responsibility once Laudato Si’ is released.
“These meetings will look at ways to continue the discussion and respond in a constructive way to bring Pope Francis’ teachings in the encyclical to reality,” Mr Arndt said.
Archbishop Coleridge said “to care for the creation is simply to look after the marvellous home that God has provided for the human family”.
“In the end, the Pope in the encyclical will do what all Christians are called to do in this debate: not engage in the way of politicians, economists or ideologues but in a way that’s distinctive to those born of biblical religion,” he said.
“That means we have to speak with the voice of the Creator who happens to be very interested in what human beings – his partners in the ongoing work of creation – are doing with the home that’s been entrusted to their stewardship.
“Laudato Si’ will be a deeply human call to us all to give an account of that stewardship.”