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Bishop Paul Sirba: Pope’s new encyclical is both pro-creation and pro-life

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (Laudato Si’ 160).

This question is at the heart of the new encyclical Laudato Si’, which Pope Francis issued last month. The greatly anticipated encyclical takes its name from the invocation of St. Francis of Assisi — ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’ — and reminds us all that the earth is our common home.

Bishop Paul Sirba

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

The encyclical is developed around the concept of integral ecology, as a paradigm able to articulate the fundamental relationships of the person: with God, with oneself, with other human beings, with creation.

In continuity with St. John Paul II, who called for a “global ecological conversion,” and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, the “green pope,” Pope Francis points to St. Francis of Assisi as the “example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully

and authentically. . . . He shows us just how inseparable is the bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” (10).

While the secular press will want to spin or reduce the document to a discussion of climate change, it reveals much, much more. Some of the principal concepts are continually taken up and enriched:

  • The intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet;
  • The conviction that everything in the world is connected;
  • The critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology;
  • The call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress;
  • The value proper to each creature;
  • The human meaning of ecology;
  • The need for forthright and honest debate;
  • The serious responsibility of international and local policy;
  • The throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle (16).

Everyone, everything matters

Our stewardship is based on the Gospel of creation. In the Bible, “the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected” (73).

Not only is the earth a gift and not our own creation, but our bodies are not our own. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20). The document is pro-creation and pro-life.

In our beautiful corner of God’s creation in northeastern Minnesota, the Holy Father’s words challenge us to confront threats to our “common home” from pollution, from waste, from the issue of water and from the “throwaway culture.” They call us to respect human dignity and to hope for joy and peace based on the Gospel of Jesus.

Everyone’s actions matter, from in-home recycling to good stewardship with our precious natural resources in local mining, logging and our unsurpassed recreation. The encyclical offers our world hope for change in dialogue, prayer and action.

Pope Francis asks us to turn to Mary the Queen of all creation. “All creature sing of her fairness” (241). At her side, St. Joseph appears in the Gospel as a just man and worker, full of the tenderness of one who is truly strong (242). Both can teach and motivate us to protect this world that God has given us.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Duluth.