An Introduction to Laudato Si’ as Lenten Study
By Bishop Geoffrey Woodcroft
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si, Our Common Home, an encyclical focusing on climate action, and how it impacts human relationships in religion and in the entirety of creation. Laudato Si is quickly becoming a timeless speech, appealing to religious and non-religious alike.
In reading and rereading this critical work, certain aspects of our Christian roots are excitingly brought to light. The Pontiff’s seven-year-old text on climate change and action is now more clearly proven in science, and more clearly observed in real-time. But the observations Pope Francis invites us to make are those revealing destruction of ecosystems and species, the displacement and loss of life at unprecedented rates.
Pope Francis argues that the Church must identify and come to terms with its lack of concern for those who follow us and our complicity with injustice caused by dominant global economics and greed.
The Pope teaches us that correcting climate change using the leading economic and political institutions is a doomed strategy. How can we trust the very systems that consider creation to be a material commodity for human consumption? How can we trust a system that does not understand a tiny ecosystem as life-giving to the whole of creation? Francis calls for a new regime, and that regime is from the ground up.
Pope Francis draws our attention towards listening to indigenous wisdom and stories of the earth that tell of a vibrant interweaving of systems, creatures, seasons, and medicines; a vibrant collection of interdependent relationships that comprise the Creator’s body – the “Body of God” as Sally McFague put it in A Climate for a New Theology.
The Pontiff expresses his concern that humans need to establish more local initiatives of practice and communication for the urban neighbourhood. Francis observes the billions of people who inhabit urban settings, but also the enormous amount of waste and loneliness that permeates urban cultures. Urban culture draws the resources of the rest of the world but returns very little. Cities are not self-sustaining. Fear, individualism, and consumerism run rampant in the urban setting.
Lastly, I hear the Pope’s reckoning for Christianity, much like the excited rhetoric of Archbishop Desmond Tutu for humanity, and the quiet-yet-prophetic words of Phyllis Tickle for religion, for us to reach one another’s hearts to find God. Like St. Francis, he desires us to answer the call in our discipleship to steward creation, God’s Body. Francis leaves us with an expectation that the Church we have known will need to change and shift to meet climate action where it needs to be; we need to be ready. The Church has held great power through the last 2000 years, and we have been complicit, complacent, and ignorant in the works that have devastated creation. But we are also healers, lovers, and those who bless, and the Pope encourages us to share the life we have been given and do so abundantly.
This day, I have also felt fear and discouragement in the events, diseases, and greed that overwhelms and irritates the rich quality of the interdependence Pope Francis suggests. We live and work among many Ukrainian descendants, whose families are at risk of a violent death every day. The cost to quench our North American greed and consumerism spirals. Society is losing its patience, and tolerance is wearing thin. There is no better day to begin a serious study of Laudato Si’, and continue our lives in the faithful path the Pope suggests.
Disciples, I am excited to offer you this opportunity to study together through Lent. My hope is that we can study through our local parish and deanery contexts.
God, our creator, renew and revive your church, refresh your spirit within us, and make us ready to steward creation as you have called that from us. May your discipline be our discipline, and your love sustain and grow us upon our Lenten journey. We ask this in He who gave his life for creation, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Living Our Common Vocation: A Response to Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home
By Archdeacon Paul Lampman
(Download this reflection as a PDF)
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote the Encyclical Letter, On Care for Our Common Home. The title of the letter is often simply referred to as Laudato Si’, the first two words in the original. This important work is an appeal to humanity for a new dialogue among all persons about how we are shaping the future of the planet (LS 14), and the need to acknowledge and face with action the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we face as a species.
In a previous article, Bishop Geoffrey Woodcroft has given us a helpful overview of this important message to the world-wide Church, and to all persons. I am focussing on the introduction and the first chapter.
The Encyclical Letter begins with the opening phrase from the Canticle of the Creatures, a prayer of Francis of Assisi: LAUDATO SI, mi’ Signore – “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”. Drawing on these images, Pope Francis reminds us that we cannot live as though we are somehow separate from our environment, and that we are living dust of the earth, made of the elements of the earth.
Pope Francis writes that over multiple decades, Roman Catholic Pontiffs have written on the dangers of nuclear weapons and war, global ecological exploitation, and the deterioration of the environment; and more recently, they have been calling for authentic moral human development in line with technical and scientific advancement, especially where it relates to the environment. Benedict XVI proposed removing dysfunctional economic structures and unrealistic models of growth which cannot ensure respect for the environment. International church leaders are united by the same concern for the environment and echo scientists, philosophers, theologians, and civic groups. Francis takes care to show the biblical and spiritual roots of a genuine Christian ecology, one that is based on love.
This pope chose the name Francis, because Saint Francis is a good model to help teach us what is means to be human, how to care for vulnerable people, and how to live out joyfully and authentically an ecology based on relationship with the environment.
What Is Happening to Our Common Home
The encyclical was published in 2015. In the first chapter, Pope Francis offers an analysis of the most pressing issues for theological and philosophical reflection in the context of the global situation. These topics continue to be problems facing our planet’s ecosystems, humanity, and the future of our species.
The Pontiff observes that pollution, waste and a “throwaway culture” are rooted in an economic system based on greed (LS 20-22). We have yet to learn a method of circular production which mirrors the natural order, and so preserve resources for present and future generations.
He argues that the climate is a “common good, belonging to all, and meant for all,” and that climate warming creates a trend toward a tipping point of global warming with grave implications for society, economies, politics and the availability and distribution of goods and services (LS 23-26). Climate change and drought affect the availability of water. Francis reminds us that safe drinking water is a fundamental human right, the basis for all other human rights. Therefore, it should not be commodified (LS 27-31).
The loss of biodiversity has short and long-term negative implications, particularly related to the loss of great forests (the lungs of the planet) and the pollution, acidification and warming of oceans (LS 32-42). The oceans are the lifeblood of the planet. Loss of ecosystems in oceans and lakes have wide-ranging impacts for the food chain.
Francis teaches that we humans are “creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity;” and therefore, we must consider the “deterioration of the environment, current models of development and the throwaway culture,” and what effect they have on the lives of people around the globe (LS 43). The Pope gives examples and draws our attention to ways this plays out in the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society (LS 44-47).
Global social and economic inequality and environmental degradation are closely linked in this encyclical. Human and social degradation need to be addressed, so that environmental problems can be solved. The poorest peoples suffer the most where the environment is exploited, degraded, and polluted. Experience and scientific research make this clear (LS 48). The world needs to be made aware of the problems of people who are poor, vulnerable, and excluded, and the inequality that affects entire countries as well as individuals (LS 48-52, 56).
Creation is groaning and the abandoned peoples cry out, “pleading that we take another course” (LS 53). The political response to the crisis is weak. Francis observes that the global summits on the environment have failed because politics is subject to technology and finance (LS 54). While some countries are making significant progress (LS 55, 58) others are not: “economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment” (LS 56). There are grave risks of conflict over depleted resources and war always has a negative effect on the environment and the cultural riches of peoples (LS 57).
Francis shines the light of hope on countries and people of good will who have made great strides in cleaning up pollution, restoring rivers and woodlands, creating environmental renewal projects, and advancing renewable energy sources and public transportation (LS 58). On their own, these efforts do not solve the global problems, but they show that people are more than capable of positive intervention.
Notwithstanding these positive signs of hope, the Pontiff warns of a superficial ecology which permits complacency and recklessness, and the continuation of present unsustainable lifestyles and models of consumption (LS 59).
In the final section of the first chapter, Francis paints, in broad strokes, a spectrum of possible solutions: on one end there are “those who uphold the myth of progress, that ecological problems can be solved with technology” without “regard to for deep change or ethical considerations;” and on the other extreme, some hold that humans are “a threat that jeopardizes the global ecosystem,” that the population must be reduced, “and all forms of intervention prohibited” (LS 60). Realistic solutions must be developed between these extremes. Church leaders understand that the Church is not in a position to offer a definitive opinion (LS 61); and yet the Church is called to respond to the present situation, given the signs that we (the world) are reaching a breaking point.
A Response: Living Our Common Vocation
The world-wide Anglican Communion has many gifts of our wisdom tradition to share, notably our approach to scripture, tradition, and reason; but the most important gift we can bring to this ongoing dialogue is ourselves and an attitude of metanoia or repentance, an open heart, and an open mind with a willingness to change our ways. Part of our culture is to see the shades of colour in any given issue, not just an either-or black or white approach, but a both-and approach. A middle way, a methodology of inclusion.
I believe we can bring this approach to help deal with the issues of the climate crisis, social and economic inequality, both locally and globally. We are part of the problem and part of the solution. Caring for the environment and loving and caring for the “least” of our human brothers and sisters is both a local and global issue. We share a large percentage of our DNA with all living creatures. Like Saint Francis, can we recognize our brothers and sisters in the least of these living beings? Can we love them? Can we enter into and experience communion with them and the land?
In baptism, we are plunged into the Communion of Giving Love: the Holy Trinity. We are immersed in the mystery of love. Creation reflects this communion and is a beautiful complex of interrelated and multifaceted organic ecosystems and inorganic systems. We are part of the land; we are in relationship with the land, with creation and with each other. May that relationship be founded on genuine love and care.
Have you had the opportunity to renew your baptismal vows with this promise?
“Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”
“I will, with God’s help.”
In September of 2013, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada passed a resolution adding this promise to the baptismal covenant in the Book of Alternative Services. The promise is a direct quote from the Marks of Mission of the worldwide Anglican Communion and reflects the grassroots movement in the church. I believe that this promise is a helpful way for us to focus on our response to the needs of creation. It is an open door to new possibilities and hope.
As one part of the baptismal covenant, we make the promise as individual disciples, to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and to respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth; but we need each other to live this out with greater faithfulness. I will, with God’s help. We will, with God’s help.
May the love poured out in Creation and Redemption fill our hearts to overflowing, and so may we enter more deeply into loving communion with Creator, creation and all created beings; through Jesus the Risen Messiah. Amen.
 Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-
Manila, 1999, 113-114.
 Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis, On Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si, paragraphs 3-6.
Living Our Faith: A Response to Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home
By Archdeacon Godfrey Mawejje
(Download this reflection as a PDF).
In the first article of the Lenten Study to Rupert’s Land News, Bishop Geoff Woodcroft gave an overview of the message from the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on care for our common home to the world-wide Church and all persons. Last week’s article was by Ven. Paul Lampman on “Living Our Common Vocation: A Response to Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home”
Living Our Faith: A Response to Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” is based on the third chapter of Laudato Si’ titled “The Human Origins of the Ecological Crisis.” In his search for understanding the human roots of ecological crisis, (Laudato Si’) Pope Francis makes a claim that a certain way of understanding human life and activity has gone awry to the serious detriment of the world around us. (LS 101)
Pope Francis calls his readers to pay attention to the dominant technocratic paradigm and how power, when abused, injures the beauty of creation. The Holy Father provides some insight on the options for the alternative if we choose to act as responsible stewards of the whole of God’s creation.
Pope Francis begins by applauding the steady progress of Science and Technology that consistently improves the quality of human life. While we celebrate such advances, its prowess brings humanity to a crossroads raising concern for well-intentioned global citizens.
Pope Francis argues that God’s intention is that humanity benefits from the long-term wave of change provided technoscience is well directed. “It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity” (LS 81).
The Pope calls us to use power invested in us for the good of all, not just a few. The more powerful one becomes, the less he or she progresses in goodness and truth that automatically flows from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well,” (LS 84) because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values, and conscience.
The Holy Father is disturbed by the risk of handing over power to individuals that fail to see it as a responsibility. (LS 85) But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. There is rampant misuse of power which results in actions of destruction of property, loss of life and pollution of the environment.
Pope Francis warns us on the negative effects of Globalization and the technique of possession, mastery and transformation. He is concerned about formlessness and complete manipulation of what comes before us as human beings. He wants us to faithfully intervene in nature and be in tune respecting the possibilities offered to us. (LS 86)
Pope Francis addresses the technocratic paradigm that tends to dominate economic and political life. He urges that there are many nations whose economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings (109) Such is evidenced in developing countries where resources are depleted and exploited leaving local people in misery, deplorable poverty, polluted lands, rivers and lakes. Yet, if advanced technology is well applied in relation to economic and development, such people would end up with quality life and a brighter future.
Pope Francis ends the topic of human roots of ecological crisis with a discussion on the crisis and effects of modern anthropocentrism. He decries the belief that sees no value in human beings, life and nature. He stresses that all human life including the unborn is important and valuable since all people are made in the image of God.
Pope Frances carefully balances the need for practical relativism, the need to protect employment, new biological technologies with human responsibility since we are stewards of all creation. Also, we are each other’s keeper and whatever is done must reflect the value for all creation.
A Response: Living Our Faith
Baptism calls us into one body with Christ. We are drawn to God’s love that is true to all God’s creation. In Christ, there are no Jews or Gentiles. We become the other’s keeper while on our journey of faith. We learn to see Christ in everyone and to see God in all of creation. We are called to use the knowledge, power, privilege, relationships, and our experience to enable others to become better as they make us better.
As for Christians, we believe in God the Father (Creator) Son (Redeemer) and Holy Spirit (Sanctifier). We promise to abide in God’s saving power and love for the world. As God’s people, we are empowered to guard and protect what God has entrusted with us as we wait for the second coming of the Lord. May you be blessed as you remain true to your faith.
Chapter Four: Integral Ecology: A Response to Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home
By Archdeacon Naboth Manzongo
(Download this reflection as a PDF)
The events of the past two years have shown us how interconnected lives are across the globe. A virus, which started as the flu in December 2019, put the world to a halt in March 2020 after more than a hundred countries had detected Covid 19. The recent war in Ukraine has globally increased the prices of gas and grain since the major suppliers and distribution channels are affected. These examples highlight that all things are connected, and we live in a web of life. Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, addresses this interconnectedness.
Pope Francis proposes integral ecology as a new paradigm. Humans must understand that they live in ecology, a system where everything is interconnected. We must therefore understand this relationship between living organisms and the environment. Everything is closely interrelated, and creation is a web of life that includes “human and social dimensions.” These interrelationships make Francis remark, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (LS. 139).
He calls for a “social ecology” that recognizes that “the health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life.” This includes the primary social group, the family, as well as wider local, national, and international communities. When these institutions are weakened, the result is injustice, violence, a loss of freedom, and a lack of respect for the law — all of which have consequences for the environment.
Pope Francis also argues that it is important to pay attention to “cultural ecology” to protect the cultural treasures of humanity. But “Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment.” He complains that a consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by globalization, “has a leveling effect on cultures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity.” New processes must respect local cultures. “There is a need to respect the rights of peoples and cultures, and to appreciate that the development of a social group presupposes a historical process that takes place within a cultural context and demands the constant and active involvement of local people from within their proper culture.”
This interconnectedness means that “environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community.” In various parts of the world, he notes, indigenous communities are being pressured “to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.” This calls us to stop and think about what is happening around us. Mercury poisoning in Asupeeschoseewagong First Nation (Grassy Narrows), an Anishinaabe community in Northwestern Ontario, is an important example. Grassy Narrows lies about 120 miles east of Winnipeg, with an approximate population of 1490 people. This land supplies the community’s basic needs for subsistence and is essential to their culture, identity, and life as a nation – as Anishinaabe. The community has resisted repeated attempts to sever their connection to the land by corporations – previously Reed Paper Limited, Dryden Chemicals, Abitibi, and currently Weyerhauser logging company – as well as by the provincial and federal governments.
Pope Francis speaks of “ecology of man,” based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.” He notes that “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.” Here he calls for “valuing one’s own body” so that “we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of others, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.
Human ecology cannot be separated from the notion of the common good, which he calls “a central and unifying principle of social ethics.” He defines the common good as “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.” The common good calls for respect for the human person as well as the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups. It requires social peace, stability, and security, “which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice.”
For Pope Francis, it is obvious that “where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.”
Finally, Francis’ vision of integral ecology and the common good includes justice between generations. He reiterates, “the world is a gift we have freely received and must share with others.” This includes future generations. “The world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” Therefore, the environment is a loan from our children, and we should pass it on to them in a good condition.
According to Pope Francis, the ethical and cultural decline which accompanies the deterioration of the environment forces us to ask fundamental questions about life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?”
Pope Francis calls for an integral ecology that sees the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, political, social, cultural, and ethical issues. Such an ecology requires the vision to think about comprehensive solutions to what is both an environmental and human crisis.
Loving God, Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all therein contained. Open our minds and touch our hearts, so that we can be part of Creation, your gift. Be present to those in need in these difficult times, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Help us to show creative solidarity as we confront the consequences of the global pandemic. Make us courageous in embracing the changes required to seek the common good. Now more than ever, may we all feel interconnected and interdependent. Enable us to succeed in listening and responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. May their current sufferings become the birth-pangs of a more fraternal and sustainable world. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen. (www.eco-catholic.com/common-prayer)
The Heart of the Matter: A response to Laudato Si, Lines of Approach and Action
By Archdeacon David Labdon
(Download this reflection as a PDF)
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s Third Law); actions have consequences. As we have witnessed with the pandemic and the horrendous war in the Ukraine, chain reactions occur and impact supply, demand, and lives; connectivity is everywhere. As we continue our Lenten Reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, this point of ‘interdependence’ is highlighted as the Pontiff contemplates ‘Lines of Approach and Action.’ No decision and action that impacts the environment fails to impact others and the world itself, for good or for ill. In this section of his letter the Holy Father stresses this point and calls for dialogue and action.
The world is interdependent on a global scale and at a community level. The Pope, therefore calls for dialogue on international and local fronts which requires joined up thinking, communication and then action; one world with a common plan (LS 164). He highlights the truth that the same mindset that impacts poverty impacts the environment, and so he calls for an overall approach to deal with both matters. Politics needs to result in effective new policies. As such, the Pope calls for effective use of the law and regulations to govern behaviour, promoting best practice and limiting bad (LS 177). In essence he then calls for partnership approaches at the differing levels of society within our interdependent state, with transparency in decision making. Parties need to work towards consensus; this, however, will not always be possible on some environmental issues. The Pope sees the Church as having a role in promoting honest and open debate on matters for the common good (LS 188).
In the final stages of this chapter, Pope Francis calls for dialogue on issues pertaining to politics and the economy linking the same to the matter of human fulfillment; the former are not the sum total of the latter. Valuing life, its purpose and quality are essential to the success of this discourse; the environment is an integral part of these discussions and plans. As such, science and technology have a massive role to play but cannot answer all the questions of life; here, in another interdependent partnership, the Church has an essential role to play.
The Church is the Body of Christ made up of many parts, put together by God (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, 18); there is true interdependence. God has called the Church to be the agents of His Mission of reconciliation, to be His hands, feet and voice (Colossians 1: 18-23). One aspect of this mission, as detailed within the Anglican Five Marks of Mission,  is the goal ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ This commitment is echoed in our Baptismal Vows. The Church, regardless of denomination (and the Anglican Church herself), is a worldwide Body positioned at local, national and international levels. As such, the Church is equipped, well placed, gifted and called by God to take part in this dialogue and to promote and support action in line with God’s will.
One of the most vital areas for the Church to focus upon is that of ‘human fulfillment.’ Pope Francis calls for the law and regulation to guide activity. In God’s Word, we learn that His Law has a similar aim, but we are reminded that we need God’s grace for forgiveness and to empower us to obey and live for Him (Romans 3: 20 Ephesians 2: 8-10). This truth takes us to the heart of the matter, the human heart. God’s grace in Jesus Christ allows us to enter into our intended relationship with God by faith. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us, changing our hearts. As He does this the Holy Spirit re-creates our being into the image of Christ (the process of sanctification). Our being drives our doing, so our relationship with God positively changes our actions, what we do. In short, if we share God’s grace and truth within His interdependent Church and creation, people’s ‘beings’ are changed, ‘doing’ changes and blessings follow.
As we determine to observe and obey both our Baptismal vow and care of this world (Genesis 2:15), we will see and enjoy His blessings in our environment; our communion with God, our neighbour and ourselves will be steeped in His love.
Eternal God, whose Son went among the crowds and brought healing with His touch: help us to show His love, in your Church as we gather together, and by our lives as they are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ our Lord. In His glorious name, Amen.