19 June 2015

Columban General Council Welcomes Encyclical Laudato Si' On Care for our Common Home

Today, 18 June 2015, the Vatican released Laudato Si' , the encyclical letter of Pope Francis On Care for our Common Home. The date on which the Holy Father signed the encyclical is 24 May, Pentecost Sunday.

As is the tradition with papal documents it gets its title from its opening words:

LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “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”. 

Unusually, the opening words are in Italian rather than Latin, though it's not the first encyclical to deviate from the norm. Mit Brennender Sorge, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI in 1937 addressing the situation in Nazi Germany, has always been know by its German title, which means "With deep anxiety" and was written in German.

The General Council of the Missionary Society issued the following statement in Hong Kong today.

Columban Missionaries Welcome Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment

HONG KONG, June 18, 2015.   Columban Missionaries welcome and celebrate Pope Francis’ newly released encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home.  This encyclical marks a historic moment in the Church as the first encyclical addressing the human relationship with all of God’s creation.  Laudato Si deepens the contributions of previous papal statements and documents which have addressed the relationship between humans and the natural world. 

Columban Superior General, Fr. Kevin O’Neill says of Laudato Si, “We thank Pope Francis for his visionary and pastoral leadership which invites us as faithful disciples of Jesus to an ongoing ecological conversion. Our lived experience speaks to us as we see the impacts of the exploited Earth and exploited peoples. We believe, as stated in our 2012 General Assembly, ‘that we are called to solidarity with marginalized people and the exploited Earth [which] are ways we participate in God’s mission’.”

Pope Francis invites us to new understandings, reflections, and actions when he says, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”[1] 

We are reminded in Laudato Si of the interconnectedness of the human and natural worlds in these words, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."[2]  For Columbans this interconnectedness and solidarity can be found in our own Constitutions which say, “The biblical perspective of stewardship inspires our attitudes and challenges our use of material resources.  It should lead to a lifestyle in keeping with Gospel values.”[3]

As pastoral leader Pope Francis calls us into communion when he says, “The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that Trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.”[4]

Internationally recognized eco-theologian, Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh says, “Laudato Si is an important step in the Church’s understanding of our human relationship with both the Creator and all of creation. We must continually learn from science, evolve our theology, and humbly situate ourselves in the wider creation story that began with the initial flaring forth 13.7 billion years ago to the world in which we live now and in to the future.  We must be open to encounter creation and learn from it.”

[1] Pope Francis. Laudato Si, par.14
[2] Ibid. par. 49.
[3] Missionary Society of St. Columban. Constitutions and Directory. C.401.
[4]Pope Francis. Laudato Si. par. 240. 

The Blue Marble [Wikipedia]
Photo of earth by crew of Apollo 17, 7 December 1972

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created humankind in his image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. 
[Genesis 1:26-31, NRSV, Catholic Edition]
The Heavens are Telling
from The Creation by Joseph Haydn

The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

Today that is coming speaks it the day,
The night that is gone to following night.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

In all the lands resounds the word,
Never unperceived, ever understood.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God, 
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

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