by Sr. Gloria
We know that both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI established a rich tradition regarding the stewardship of creation. Now we know that Pope Francis has continued it to the point of writing an encyclical: “LAUDATE SI: SULLA CURA DELLA CASA COMUNE.” (“PRAISED BE: ON THE CARE OF THE COMMON HOME.”) (This reflection is being written on the Sunday before the encyclical is being released, in five languages on Thursday June 18, so by the time you read this, you know that it has made the news worldwide.)
We share some background information, in case you haven’t heard it. We know that Pope Francis said, in March of 2013: “Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” “How can you have wealth if it comes at the expense of the suffering and death of other people and the deterioration of the environment?”
A papal encyclical is a teaching document that discusses a wrong that needs to be addressed. This one will raise the obligation to address connections between environmental degradation and human health, ecology and human security, ecology and the poor and environmental destruction. It will be a theological, not a political argument. All this should influence the global talks in Paris next December.
The encyclical is likely to make a strong connection between the environment and the poor and the vulnerable. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana has said, “Much of the world remains in poverty, despite abundant resources, while a privileged global elite controls the bulk of the world’s wealth and consumes the bulk of its resources.” Pope Francis has already spoken about the crucial vocation of cultivating and protecting natural resources, to feed humanity and to ensure that all may be freed from hunger.
Pope Francis has said that “increasing reliance on biofuels is also dangerous when it supplants food production and exacerbates global hunger.” Biofuel production is driving a new wave of deforestation and reducing the land devoted to food crops. “According to Oxfam International, in 2012 the amount of crops consumed as biofuel by G8 countries, could have fed more than 441 million people for an entire year.”
We have heard of Sr. Dorothy Stang, an American missionary nun who was assassinated in Brazil in 2005, for defending the rights of poor farmers in the Amazon forests.
You have heard of millions of bees that have been found dead because of the use of pesticides, and GMO additives in crop fields: corporations making money as the bees lose their territory. We already know of the critical part bees play in our food supply. What can be done?
Pope Francis says, “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world problems, or, for that matter, to any problems. Markets should be regulated so that their tendency to cause massive financial harm is blunted.”
Patrick Carolan, director of the Franciscan Action Network says: “And the greater issue is our lack of connectedness, our viewing ourselves as separate from creation instead of as part of creation.”
You will be reading this after June 18, and will be aware of the publicity and commentaries spurred by Pope Francis’ call: “May the bounty of earth meet the needs of all.” There is work to be done by the Christian community. Where do we start?