The Church suggested that priests today should speak about the new encyclical from Pope Francis. Since Papal encyclicals are all known by their opening Latin words, it is common to open an encyclical with a phrase that hints at the encyclical’s message.
So, when Pope John XXIII wrote an encyclical on world peace, for its opening phrase he used the words, “Pacem in Terra” or “Peace on earth.” Likewise, in 1891 when Pope Leo XXIII radically broke with the past in writing about the rights of laborers, for that he opened his encyclical with the Latin phrase, “Rerum Novarum” or
“Of new matters.”
Commentators today are comparing this encyclical of Pope Francis to that one of Leo XIII written 124 years ago. No papal document since then has been more of a bombshell.
But, the name of this new encyclical is puzzling. It is “Laudato Si,” and that isn’t even Latin. It is half the opening line of a canticle of St. Francis Assisi, and it was written in Italian. Our Pope’s family, the Bergoglio clan, emigrated from Italy to Brazil in the last century, and they brought with them a deep love for the poetry of Francis Assisi.
The Canticle from which Pope Francis borrows his title was called “Laudabo Si, mi’ Signore” or “I praise you, Lord.” The canticle beautifully praises God for giving us this green earth as our companionable sister through life.