We celebrate the 5th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Letter: Laudato Si – On Care of Our Common Home this year, on 24th May 2020. This unique, accessible and very powerful landmark document continues to speak to our lives and the needs of our world today when we are experiencing daily, just how intimately human and planetary health are interconnected.
Revisiting this document through the ongoing experience of the impact of COVID19 continues to make the reading of, and acting on its inspiration, an even more profound, necessary and challenging experience.
We are reading daily in the face of this pandemic, how during ‘lockdown’ of a large percentage of humanity there is evidence of the impact of environmental pollution dissipating albeit in particular ‘pockets’ in various countries e.g. the reduction in the extent of air pollution in some of the major cities in China or the evidence of wildlife on the waterways in Venice starting to return to their once local habitats. The ‘lockdown experience’ has also exacerbated the evident inequalities in our world – between those who have the luxury and resources and facilities to be able to protect themselves from this virus and those who don’t even have access to water to be able to wash their hands or the space to even begin to consider self-isolation.
The challenges and perils are huge and change the very nature of our existence on so many levels now and into the future.
Pope Francis – a call to act now
“Around the world, the Church is at the forefront in dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus. Short and long-term projections regarding health care, as well as economic and social necessities, are needed. While vaccines and treatments to eradicate COVID-19 continue to be tested, the forecasts of the International Monetary Fund for 2020 speak of a 3% drop in the global gross domestic product. The decline would be worse than the “Great Depression” of the 1930s”.
In this context, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, stresses that:
” … one crisis risks being followed by others, in a cycle in which we will be forced to learn slowly and painfully to take care of our common home, as Pope Francis so prophetically teaches in the Encyclical Laudato Si’”.
Pope Francis has entrusted this Dicastery with two main tasks:
- The need to offer promptly, attentively, and in a timely way the Church’s support and contribution in this crisis, putting actions in place to support the local Churches, to save lives, to help the poorest.
- The second concerns the aftermath, the future: it is about change.
“ The Pope is convinced that we are living through an epochal change, and he is reflecting on what will follow the crisis, on the economic and social consequences of the pandemic, on what we will have to face, and above all on how the Church can offer itself as a safe point of reference to the world lost in the face of an unexpected event. Making a contribution regarding the latter is our second task.”
Pope Francis has asked us for concreteness and creativity, scientific approach and imagination, global thinking and the ability to understand local needs.
Today, all of us are rediscovering our fragility. First of all, we are rediscovering that inhabiting the Earth as a common home requires much more. It requires solidarity in accessing the goods of creation as a “common good”, and solidarity in applying the fruits of research and technology to make our “Home” healthier and more liveable for all.
In this, we rediscover God, who has entrusted us with such a vocation of being in solidarity with others. We are rediscovering how much the destiny of each of us is linked to that of others. We are rediscovering the value of the things that matter and the worthlessness of so many things that we once considered important.
As the Pope said on 27 March: “The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.”
From Laudato Si #86
The universe as a whole, in all its manifold relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches of God. Saint Thomas Aquinas wisely noted that multiplicity and variety “come from the intention of the first agent” who willed that “what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another”, inasmuch as God’s goodness “could not be represented fittingly by any one creature”.
Hence we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships. We understand better the importance and meaning of each creature if we contemplate it within the entirety of God’s plan. As the Catechism teaches: “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient.
Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other”.
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,
that 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 recognise 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.
Note: At the North East Province Justice Day hosted by the Province’s Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission on Tuesday 26th November 2019. The opening presentation at this event was by Jane Mellett – Laudato Sí Officer at Trócaire on the theme: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10): Living a full Christian Life in an era of Ecological Breakdown”. See a summary of this input HERE
Other resource links – Vatican News – We must think of the aftermath of COVID-19 so we are not unprepared
Canada’s National Observer – Link between viruses, habitat destruction and climate change