Pope Francis’ aptly titled encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise Be) is finally here! The day we have all been waiting for is upon us and the document is in our hands. While many will spend the remainder of the day sifting through the edict, highlighting the key aspects of its content as they have with previous encyclicals, many of us are seeing a document of this nature for the first time.
History of the Encyclical
An encyclical, as its name implies, is a “circular letter” meant to be spread throughout a community. A papal encyclical may, in an oversimplification of the term, be a letter from the Pope to the bishops and priests. While it has historically been used to publicly address one, or a few particular bishops in a specific region, it is most commonly used to address the larger global network of bishops that reside on every continent in the world.
The ‘letter’ is often, though not exclusively, used to demonstrate modern applications of Roman Catholic theology in regard to contemporary social justice issues. This enables Catholic practitioners to move forward in accordance with their religious tradition. It does not however mean that only Catholics may glean enlightenment from the document. Encyclicals have for many decades been held in high regard by people of all faith traditions for their universal approach to solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Laudato si is not Pope Francis’ first encyclical (Lumen Fidei / June 29, 2013), nor is he the first Pope to express concern over the environment. He is however the first Pope to draft an encyclical devoted to the environment, which may explain its broad appeal across faith traditions.
The Pope’s Encyclical: A Collection of Top Resources
- Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences released a document in April detailing their purpose for addressing the moral crisis of climate change.
- Papal Encyclicals Online – a listing of all of the previous papal encyclicals and other officials documents of the Catholic Church
- Interfaith Power and Light have put together a resource kit that will not only guide you through the Encyclical, but take you all the way to the UN climate talks this December.
- The Vatican website offers a series of informative materials on the Encyclical and anything else you could need to know.
- CRS Resource Center provides tools for putting your climate ministry into action
- Catholic Online not only offers an emailed version of the Encyclical, but provides a plethora of Catholic resources to utilize.
- Catholic Climate Covenant – Our partner has compiled a play-by-play recap of the Pope’s lead up to the Encyclical for those of you just tuning in.
- United States Conference on Catholic Bishops will keep you connected on how American parishes follow through with enacting the Encyclical
- National Catholic Registry offers some insights on communicating Catholic Ecology in the 21st century
- Catholic Rural Life is an online source for those living off the grid.
- Crux – Staying ahead of the spin produced by 24 hour news media is tough, but Crux magazine has some tips for doing so.
- USA Today offers in-depth context on the history of Encyclicals
- Five Things to Look for in the Encyclical on Environment – National Catholic Reporter has outlined a few key aspects they think are most important for reading the edict.
Now that you’ve finished reading the encyclical, it’s time to get involved! Regardless of your personal faith tradition, joining Catholic efforts to spread climate awareness is a cause for all of us. You may start by joining our friends at Greenfaith as they celebrate One Earth, One Human Family, a march on St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the Pope’s call to action for environmental justice. For those unable to join the march, they are asking the diverse faith communities supporting the encyclical to show solidarity with the march by ‘ringing their bells, sounding their gongs, chimes, or shofars, or by simply going outside to pray’ on June 28th.
There are many ways to show your solidarity with Pope Francis, but the important thing to remember is that climate action is not a one-time event. It is a year round effort that requires all of us to lead daily on our moral obligation to care for God’s beautiful creation. Continue your efforts by joining Blessed Tomorrow to lead your faith community to climate action!