This past May 24, on the fifth anniversary of the document, the pope launched the “Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year”. He at the same time announced a seven-year program to promote its concrete implementation.
The fact that so many people have taken the encyclical seriously has led to an awareness of the issues at stake.
Francis has called for a change of perspective that entails accompanying creation rather than dominating it. The originality of his approach lies in building a bridge between environmental and social ecologies.
The pope is inviting everyone to become more consciously a guardian of creation, as well as their brothers and sisters in humanity. Certainly, this is a “green” encyclical, but it is also deeply concerned with social justice.
The exceptional events that the world has been experiencing in recent months are shocking and disturbing.
The realization, hammered home by Francis, that everything is connected, has become evident. An unknown virus, raging in a remote corner of China, affected the entire planet in the course of just a few weeks.
The idea that Europe did not need to be concerned was shattered by a violence on a par with the denial of the early days. World travel — facilitated by the blurring of frontiers — suddenly came to a halt. And countries began closing their national borders for health reasons.
Humanity found itself before a wall.
“We have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything,” said the pope on March 27 during a special “Urbi et Orbi” prayer in St. Peter’s Square.
“Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things and lured away by haste,” he said.
“We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick,” Francis lamented.
This has been a rude awakening and the pope sees the health crisis as a kairos, an opportunity to take Laudato Si’ into the long term. At a time when the pandemic seems to be receding, people naturally wonder what will happen next.
Will the year 2020 end up being just a parenthesis before returning to normal? Or will the health crisis shift the lines by provoking a lasting awareness of the need for integral ecology?
For nearly three months, the world has been scrutinizing the figures from the pandemic, sometimes to the point of obsession in the face of a danger that is felt to be close at hand. But if these figures send chills up our spine, they are only the tree that prevents us from seeing the forest of so much else that causes death.
Malnutrition, pollution, climate change and global inequalities are killing more and more people every day. Ambitious international programs are not enough to counter these trends. A global ecological conversion, by everyone, is needed to support sustainable development.
Francis never ceases to remind us that humanity must start afresh from tangible reality, from nature as a valid norm and a living refuge. In the spirit of dialogue with society, which he constantly promotes, the pope wants to draw a series of actors into his dream.
The multiplication of fruitful experiences through innovative projects and networks of solidarity can move tectonic plates. The pope has announced a panoply of actions supported by a website specially dedicated to this program in partnership with such groups as the Global Catholic Climate Movement and Renova+.
He has set up seven working groups to meet his seven-year timeline. Families, the primary network of society, are mentioned first. Then schools and universities, dioceses and religious orders, also the healthcare and agricultural sectors.
Overall, and in line with Catholic social teaching and subsidiarity, the pope is looking to the non-profit sector as a bridge between public authority and business.
By doing further study and reflection on Laudato Si’ over the next several years with a few hundred university students, we will discover more and more of the encyclical’s richness. Francis hopes it will elicit many different intuitions, leading to new ways of creative solidarity.
The real question is whether those he has invited into this project will be able to create innovative networks to support Laudato Si‘s prophetic vision.
Serge Maucq is a Dominican and economist who teaches ethics in the theology department at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium). He is also parish priest at Our Lady of Hope in Louvain-La-Neuve.
“Ecological conversion in action”
“COVID-19 has made clear how deeply we are all interconnected and interdependent. As we begin to envision a post-COVID world, we need above all an integral approach,” says the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, pointing that “everything is connected”, as Francis says in the encyclical.
A prayer for the year has already been published, and in June the Vatican will publish operational guidelines now being drawn up by all the dicasteries of the Roman Curia for a concrete implementation of Laudato si’.
The Holy See has set up various pandemic reflection groups that aim to be part of an “ecological conversion in action”.
“The urgency of the situation calls for immediate responses”
The Global Educational Alliance gathering and the Assisi meeting on the economy are expected to be rescheduled for October.
Another feature of the Laudato si’ anniversary year will be the Vatican’s participation at the Davos summit in January 2021 and the World Water Forum in March 2021.
The latter is to be held in Dakar, Senegal. And the country’s president has invited the pope to attend.
Additionally, a global meeting of world religious leaders is also proposed for the spring.
On a concrete level, a platform of initiatives will also be set up where families, dioceses, schools, universities, hospitals, businesses and religious congregations will commit themselves to integral ecology over a seven-year journey “towards total sustainability”.
This will be based on seven ecological, social, spiritual and educational criteria.
“The urgency of the situation calls for immediate, holistic and unified responses at all levels,” explains the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
It says it wants to create “a peoples’ movement from below, an alliance of all people of good will”.