Pope Francis has tackled the issue of climate change in his Encyclical Laudato si’. The document, running to 191 pages, continues the Pope’s shift away from the formality of previous popes and displays a genuine and down to earth approach to the issue. Many of its themes will resonate with those of differing faiths, including paganism and in particular, there are many elements that will resonate with Shamanism.
The document takes its title from the invocation of St. Francis, “Praise be to you, my Lord.” In it, Pope Francis calls the earth our ‘common home’ which “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. We have forgotten that “we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”
The earth is, he says, groaning and lamenting its abuse and calls on people to tackle this mistreatment of the earth via an ‘ecological conversion’ – “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet”.
There is a strong theme running throughout the document of hope and interfaith co-operation on the issue although the Pope does address Catholics specifically also. He acknowledges those that have rung the alarm bells before him, “the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all […] have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions”. The document closes with two prayers, one for those who believe in God the Creator and another for those that believe in Jesus Christ – a noble gesture from a Pope that seems more caring and open to people beyond those of the Christian faith (both prayers are reproduced at the end of this article).
The blame for a changing climate is placed squarely on the activities of man via Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture. Access to safe drinkable water is a “basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” The loss of thousands of species of plants and animals due to man’s activities is slammed, those species having a value in and of themselves. Strikingly, the Pope blames the culture of finance and consumerism – “it is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey.” It is leading to the breakdown of communities and family life which sadly, not enough people seem troubled by and so the culture of consumerism continues.
Focusing on the Bible, the Pope quotes several passages, reinforcing for Christians that the treatment of the earth is of fundamental importance. “These accounts suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin”. They have been broken by our selfishness and consumerism. “All of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect”.
Laudato si’ does not shy away from picking out those responsible – a lack of political will and Climate Conferences where little solid progress is achieved. “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”.
This is a welcome document from the Church and one where a call is made to all Christians and those of other faiths to treat the earth with due respect. It is striking the similarity is bears to many pagan beliefs about the environment – it makes a call to treat the earth almost as if it is holy because ultimately, God created the earth and us. Such a call should be welcomed by anyone concerned about where mankind is heading.
The full text of Laudato si’ can be found at
A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
hat we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!