‘Laudato Si’ not as radical as you think – CNN

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Not even a day has passed since the release of his climate change encyclical, “Laudato Si”; but Pope Francis has already drawn heaps of praise around the world. That’s not surprising. 

Although his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI expressed concerns for the environment during their terms, Francis is the first pope to tackle the issue through an encyclical.

Doctrine-wise, however, there is nothing radical with Francis’ sentiments. Papal encyclicals don’t change doctrine. Rather, they discuss the issues of their times through the lens of Church teaching.

As the “free love” movement spread in the late 60s, Paul VI addressed contraception and marriage in “Humanae Vitae.” During the penultimate stage of the Cold War in the early 80s, John Paul II discussed labor and capital in “Laborem Exercens.”

The same holds true for Francis: A strong respect for nature has always been a part of Catholic tradition. The Church has long taught that human beings hold stewardship — not dominion — over the Earth. Case in point: Francis of Assisi, one of its most popular saints.

Many stories are told about the saint’s poverty. Just as many stories are also told about his great love for nature. 

Francis lived in the 13th century — several hundred years before the “green movement”. Nevertheless, he would thank the Lord for “Brother Sun,” “Sister Moon,” “Mother Earth”, and “Brother Fire” in a famous canticle. In 1979, John Paul II named Francis of Assisi as Patron Saint “of those who promote ecology.”

The saint is the pope’s namesake. In 2013, the pontiff told the media that he chose to be called Francis because of the saint’s simplicity and love for nature, noting how he was a “poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor.”

“Francis loved peace and that is how the name came to me.”

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Atty. Angela Ibay, Climate and Energy Program Head for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines, said that the Pope’s sentiments reflect a longstanding belief of environmentalists — that human activity also contributes to climate change.

“It’s also in the central message of climate justice, which a lot of Non-Governmental Organizations have been calling for,” Ibay said.

“It’s really timely that the pope has said something about climate change, and how we as the stewards of the Earth… should really protect it.”

Ibay added that Francis’ encyclical provides a moral dimension to the long-running debate of climate change: “We know that climate change is not just a scientific challenge anymore the scientists have already said their piece through the different assessment reports…”

“Caring for each other also involves having to look at how we deal with the planet and how we’re affecting it,” she said.


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