by ROWENA OREJANA
Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, is an “extraordinarily holistic” document on ecology and the environment while drawing the same attention to how the poor and the marginalised are treated by society.
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan, who worked at the Vatican’s Secetariat of State in the latter years of Pope St John Paul II and during the time of Pope Benedict XVI, said he has never “read anything on the ecology or the environment which is more or even near as holistic as this. And so that’s a particular contribution that he’s making.”
He highlighted Pope Francis’s two novel approaches to the encyclical, the first being that he
addressed it to all the people in the world.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand on June 21, Bishop Drennan said the encyclical is political in a sense because it addresses everyone on the planet, including politicians.
“It’s political because he does focus on the decision-makers of each of our nations and is prompting them to be more proactive, if you like, in the way that they are addressing questions concerning environment which impact on every person,” he said.
The second addition that Pope Francis made was ending the encyclical with two prayers.
“An encyclical always end with a prayer. This encyclical ends with two prayers: one, a Christian prayer, and another prayer for all believers, whether they call their God Allah or whoever. That, too, is a strong indication of him saying, ‘Come on, world community, we
need to address these challenges together’,” he explained.
Bishop Drennan said Pope Francis stressed that it will take more than technology to solve the world’s problems. It will need a renewal of each of us as human beings and see ourselves as a common family.
“The Greek sense of the word ecology is simply the study of the eco as home. It’s a wonderful image of our world. Our world as a home. And Pope Francis wants us to stop polluting it… And to see this as the environment which will nurture us as a human family,” he said.
Bishop Drennan also explained that the idea of man having dominion over the world really means man is the steward of God’s gifts.
“It’s a wonderful image of our relationship, if you like, with God as creator and we are fellow journeyers and therefore we have a responsibility to show respect to the environment, which is a gift for all humanity, including the next generation. I think that’s something that touches the heart of Kiwi people, too,” he said.
Bishop Drennan said Pope Francis has had a considerable impact on the global stage. “He enjoys great, great, great respect. I think political leaders will very much take to heart what he said,” he noted.
He added that the Pope has woven hope in his encyclical. “[He is] saying it’s not too late, we can do this, but we can only solve some of these problems together as a family. Now that’s a win-win image,” the bishop said.
“I’m sure that many politicians will take on board this strong invitation to work for the good of all people,” he said.
Another strong message in the encyclical is the impact government decisions have on the poor
and the marginalised.
“While we’re concerned perhaps for some endangered species… we also obviously have to be very careful with how we view, judge, value those who are vulnerable, and human life as well,” he said, noting that in New Zealand, there are moves to revisit the legalisation of euthanasia.
“Pope Francis closely ties the preservation of human life to preservation of other life on the
by ROWENA OREJANA