Environmental Stewardship and Justice
Pope Francis' Encyclical
on the Enviornment
Pope Francis believes that there are significant ecological problems today and that these need to be addressed. They include not only problems in the natural environment but also in the human sphere as well, particularly among the poorest.
In this papal letter, Pope Francis emphasizes the need to care for the earth, the fact that humans are contributing to global warming, and the fact that climate change disproportionately impacts the poor.
One of the things that makes this encyclical special is that virtually all encyclicals are addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church, sometimes with added groups like other Catholic clergy, religious, laypeople, and even—in exceptional cases—all people “of good will.”
Laudato Si’ is different. It is not addressed specifically to the bishops, with additional groups added on. Instead, it is addressed to every person on the planet. This means, unlike any previous encyclical, only a minority of its intended audience is Catholic. (Catholics make up a little more than a billion of the seven billion people alive.)
The encyclical does not simply propose views which all are expected to accept because of the pope’s religious authority. Instead, he invites the people of the world to a dialogue on the subject of environmentalism, writing:
"In this encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home."
What does the encyclical contain?
After a brief introduction, the document proceeds through six chapters:
What Is Happening to Our Common Home
The Gospel of Creation
The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Lines of Approach and Action
Ecological Education and Spirituality
Pope Francis discusses several themes:
Pollution and Climate Change
The Issue of Water
Loss of Biodiversity (i.e., the extinction of plants, animals, etc.)
Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society
The document then concludes with two prayers, one of which can be said by all who believe in God as the all-powerful Creator and one of which is meant specifically to be said by Christians. To read them, either scroll down to the bottom of the encyclical, or click here.