Pope Francis’ revolutionary new encyclical calls for a “broad cultural revolution” to confront the environmental crisis. “Laudato Si” is also quite lengthy. Can it be summarized? In other words, what are the main messages, or “takeaways” of this encyclical?
1) The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on the environment.
The greatest contribution of “Laudato Si” to the environmental dialogue is, to my mind, its systematic overview of the crisis from a religious point of view. Until now, the environmental dialogue has been framed mainly with political, scientific and economic language. With this new encyclical, the language of faith enters the discussion—clearly, decisively and systematically. This does not mean that Pope Francis is imposing his beliefs on those concerned about the environment. “I am well aware,” he says, that not all are believers (62). Nonetheless, the encyclical firmly grounds the discussion in a spiritual perspective and invites others to listen to a religious point of view, particularly its understanding of creation as a holy and precious gift from God to be reverenced by all men and women. But the pope also hopes to offer “ample motivation” to Christians and other believers “to care for nature” (64). This does also not mean that other popes (and other parts of the church) have not spoken about the crisis—Francis highlights the teachings of his predecessors, particularly St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. But in its systematic spiritual approach, this is a groundbreaking document that expands the conversation by inviting believers into the dialogue and providing fresh insights for those already involved. (more)