The new encyclical of Pope Francis asks us to regard our environment with the love we would give to a younger sister whom we would protect from ruin.

Sunday, 6/21/15

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.

In Chapter One of Genesis, God gave mankind dominion over the earth. Our Pope’s encyclical faults our industries for taking that God-given dominion to be an entitlement for us to exploit our environment for quick gain.  As opposed to that, this encyclical, following on this canticle of Francis Assisi, regards our environment as a precious younger sister whom we must protect from ruin.

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