Q&A: Laudato Si' ~ On the Care of Our Common Home

Posted 06/19/2015

Q. What is Laudato Si'? What is its message?
A. In this teaching document, Pope Francis is reminding us that our obligation to protect and care for the environment is as essential as our responsibility to care for each other. Catholic Charities agencies across the country are committed to working within our communities to maintain and preserve all of God's creation, as called for by our faith. While many prior encyclicals have been aimed at bishops or the Church, this teaching document invites the entire world to renew its relationship with creation. Working inside of a moral framework that has long been part of our Catholic teaching, Pope Francis discusses our call to care for all human life, especially those most vulnerable and marginalized, as well as for creation, helping us to renew our thinking about the relationship between persons and communities with the natural environment.

Q. Why should we care about what Pope Francis has to say about the environment?
A. This is not an "environmental encyclical;" this is a document that encourages us to examine all of our relationships. Our relationship with ourselves, each other, creation, and God - Pope Francis calls us to rebuild what has been broken, including our exploitation of the earth and systems that keep millions from living a fulfilling life.

Q. How does a focus on caring for creation help fulfill Catholic Charities' mission of "working to reduce poverty in America"?
A. We have seen changes in our climate contribute to increasingly devastating tornadoes and hurricanes, which cause widespread destruction of lives and communities. After natural disasters strike, those most impacted are very often those with the least opportunity to rebuild - the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised. The burden of global climate change falls on those in need, and addressing the needs of the poor requires taking action to better protect all of God's creation.

Q. What is Catholic Charities doing to share the lessons of the Pope's encyclical?
A. Catholic Charities has a long history of advocating around issues that disproportionately impact those living on the margins, and looks forward to reading, sharing, and learning from Pope Francis' message. As a member of a national network of agencies rooted in communities, Catholic Charities is part of a movement to bolster true sustainability and continue providing services to help the marginalized and less fortunate increase and maintain resiliency. Catholic Charities is uniquely positioned to be the voice of the poor in advocating for policies to lift people out of poverty, adopting sustainable human and community development strategies, and encouraging individual choices that promote a healthy respect for creation. We look forward to working with those within our diocese, Catholic Charities USA, and other Catholic organizations to amplify his summons to our nation and our world as we prepare for his visit to the United States in September.

Q. What is an encyclical?
A. An encyclical is, in layman's terms, a letter from the Holy Father to the whole world on an issue of special importance. Popes have used encyclicals to explore and develop the Church's teaching around respect for workers and all human life, define or clarify Church doctrine, or draw attention to issues that need special care. Laudato Si', Pope Francis' second encyclical, is expected to do all of those things, with a focus on being good stewards of God's creation.

Q. Why does the Catholic Church feel the need to get involved in political issues? Isn't climate change just an excuse to support liberal policies and politicians?
A. Our faith calls us to promote peace and work for justice - while this inevitably entails engaging with political systems, it begins as a personal decision and commitment. Our mission is primarily about touching hearts, not impacting elections, and we believe Laudato Si' will be a critical reminder of our need to strengthen our care and commitment to each other and our common home.

Q. Why is Pope Francis the first pope to speak out on climate change?
A. He's not! The Catholic Church has a long history of speaking out on behalf of environmental stewardship
and being responsible consumers and producers, mindful of our impact on the climate and environment. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called on world leaders to address the "ecological crisis...[and] develop a common plan of action aimed at orienting the model of global development toward greater respect for creation and for an integral human development inspired by the values proper to charity in truth."

Q. Is Pope Francis calling for specific public policy actions?
A. Pope Francis tells us that the poor and the earth are hurting due to neglect of our responsibility to be faithful stewards of the gift of creation. While global change is needed, it cannot happen without a conversion of the heart on an individual level. This document seeks to remind us all of our common identity as children of God, and our responsibility to care for our common home.

Courtesy of Catholic Charities USA in cooperation with Catholic Charities of Tennessee.

Prayer to Care for Our Common Home

Father of all,
Creator and ruler of the universe,
You entrusted your world to us as a gift.
Help us to care for it and all people,
that we may live in right relationship--
with You,
with ourselves,
with one another,
and with creation.

Christ our Lord,
both divine and human,
You lived among us and died for our sins.
Help us to imitate your love for the human family
by recognizing that we are all connected-
to our brothers and sisters around the world,
to those in poverty impacted by environmental devastation,
and to future generations.

Holy Spirit,
giver of wisdom and love,
You breathe life in us and guide us.
Help us to live according to your vision,
stirring to action the hearts of all-
individuals and families,
communities of faith,
and civil and political leaders.

Triune God, help us to hear the cry of those in poverty, and the cry of the earth, so that we may together care for our common home.


This prayer from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is based on Pope Francis' Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. SOURCE:

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