ROME — When the special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year closes May 24, it will celebrate progress made over the past five years, and it will launch a new wave of initiatives for the next decade in an ongoing response to Pope Francis’ call for the care of creation.
“For we know that things can change” is the theme of hope for the church’s worldwide celebration May 16-25 of Laudato Si’ Week — the “crowning event” of an anniversary year that began during a global pandemic.
Even though “we certainly understood that we had one common home before COVID,” seeing a crisis in health and hygiene in China cause lockdowns in Europe and job losses in Africa revealed even more clearly how interconnected the world really is, said Tebaldo Vinciguerra, the official leading the “ecology and creation” desk at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The message of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” continues to be prophetic for a pandemic-hit and post-pandemic world, the dicastery says on its website, as the document provides a “moral and spiritual compass” for a “new way of living together, bonded together in love, compassion and solidarity” and in a more “harmonious relationship with the natural world, our common home.”
Under the large green canopy of a 100-year-old London planetree in a small city square near his Vatican office, Vinciguerra told Catholic News Service May 12, it is important the church “leads by example.”
The key to Laudato Si’ is seeing, living and working in ways that piece life’s many facets together and that create bridges to bring diverse people together toward a common goal, he said.
“It’s not just ‘I have a solar panel,’ full stop,” he said.
Some of the best things to emerge from people acting on the encyclical, he said, are their responses to a call for dialogue among experts in diverse fields, creating new and needed combinations and partnerships, such as: an architect sitting down with a theologian; a bishop choosing impact investing for his diocese; and a Caritas branch practicing due diligence and transparency.
Some dioceses and bishops’ conferences have put great effort into promoting “integral” action among their own offices, for example, he said, asking staff working on “pro-life, family, transparency, (procurements), ecology, justice and peace, social teaching, liturgy, etc., to do something together.”
The Archdiocese of Mumbai, in fact, has an environmental office that blends catechesis with the use of more ecological materials, including not just avoiding single-use plastics, but encouraging shroud burial at church funerals to save precious wood and as a way of following what Jesus did.
A good project aims at helping the entire community bring different elements together and offers an alternative to what is available, Vinciguerra said, for example, a farm that cultivates nutritional crops from local species, involves the efforts of marginalized community members, utilizes composting, avoids post-harvest food losses by giving away what would otherwise be wasted and directs profits to fund schooling for single-parent families.
The dicastery will unveil a preview of a Laudato Si’ Action Platform May 25 — ahead of its full launch Oct. 4 — as part of a “road map” of action for the next decade, he said. The platform is meant to help those who want to increase their commitment to bringing Laudato Si’ to life by promising a set of actions over a period of seven years.
Parishes, dioceses, families, businesses, NGOs or religious congregations can register to assess what they are doing now and to see how they can further contribute to the seven Laudato Si’ goals, he said.
Among the challenges still out there, Vinciguerra said, is to convince people to act on Pope Francis’ call that everyone must contribute to the common good.
How people choose to live day-by-day is very important, even with the smallest gestures of love, he said, as well as the larger policies and practices on all levels in agriculture, trade, economics, debt and finance, patents and supply chains.
This is why politics has to be driven by love for the common good, which is seen “as a set of social conditions that allow for a full harmonious development of people and the community,” he said.
Politics and governance, therefore, require “healthy institutions,” free from corruption and open to “meaningful participation” from everyone, including the poorest, he said.
When it comes to political representatives, a consistent and integral understanding of the human being is important, he said. For example, there may be representatives who support initiatives that protect workers or the environment, but fail to protect the unborn, and vice versa, leaders who are pro-life, but oppose environmental protections.
The encyclical calls out this kind of “schizophrenia” by insisting “there can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.”
Vinciguerra said the church’s aim is “to teach what a healthy anthropology is and its implications” in terms of human dignity and individual responsibility, he said.
“The tricky part is not only what kind of planet we will leave to our children,” he said, “it is also what kind of children we leave for the planet, what kind of education,” access to justice, culture and media and how they understand relationships and living together.
The parable of the good Samaritan offers a lesson here in the crucial importance of people living in solidarity, reciprocity, trust and hope, he said.
The Samaritan showed compassion by helping and caring for a wounded stranger; he involved and trusted an innkeeper to help, who in turn trusted the Samaritan to make good on his promise to return, Vinciguerra said. “Together we can create something, together — you and me — we can create trust that benefits someone else, the wounded man; let us have hope for trust.”