Pope Francis sets out a vision for rebalancing the inequalities between rich and poor in his first encyclical Laudato Si’, on ‘Caring for our Common Home’.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines said the encyclical reflects what Caritas is witnessing in poor communities around the world:
“I visit communities where people are living on trash heaps. Children are born in trash, grow up and die there. They feel like trash. This is not God’s creation, this is manmade. Pope Francis is inviting everyone to reflect on this reality. He is calling on us to ‘aim for a new lifestyle’, to change the economic structures that have caused so much harm and regain our responsibility for others and the world. Laudato Si’ will inspire the work of Caritas organisations for years to come.”
The encyclical touches on key aspects of Caritas’ work around the world such as the environment, labour exploitation, agriculture and social inequality. President of Catholic Relief Services/Caritas USA was one of the four people to present at the launch of the encyclical in the Vatican on Thursday.
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years,” writes Pope Francis in the letter. “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
The papal letter looks at “the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet”. It comes at a key time for global development. The UN will launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in September, where Pope Francis will attend.
World leaders will then gathering in Paris for the UN Climate Conference in December. “Recent World Summits on the environment have failed” writes the pope, calling climate change “one of the principal challenges facing humanity”. The pope calls on governments to make binding commitments to “ensure the protection of ecosystems”.
The encyclical says climate change is a symptom of a wider sickness. Caritas says it calls for a transformation from the way we live now to one of greater respect for people and the planet.
“The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation,” writes the pope. “Every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged …by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion”.
Caritas says Laudato Si’ is above all a message of hope and of action. Pope Francis writes, “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”.
Individually, the pope writes, we have a responsibility to live more frugal lives where we end the cycle of wanting more as it means less for the poor and less for the planet. He is inviting everyone to play a role, highlighting that other faiths are engaging. He says that Christians must realise that their “duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith’”.
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