“Creation is not a property; creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” – Pope Francis

Today [June 18] the Holy Father released his much-anticipated encyclical, entitled Laudato Si’, which translates to “Praised Be.” The encyclical highlights our calling and responsibility as Christians to care for God’s creation. The document is not necessarily about the environment, but rather the connection between the way that humans interact and care for one another and the way that we treat and care for Creation. It also addresses the moral causes of climate change, the destruction of natural resources, and the problem of consumerism. Pope Francis cited previous Catholic teaching by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who asked the faithful to “recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behavior.”

Pope Francis calls us to reflect on the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, who he calls “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.” Recognizing an urgent need to “protect our common home,” Pope Francis appealed to Christians for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” The conversation, he says, must include everyone.

While Pope Francis highlights many topics within Laudato Si’, he specifically mentions pollution, waste, and our “throwaway culture;” he also talks about a lack of clean, fresh drinking water in some parts of the world, a decline in strong Christian families, and a lack of compassion and care for the poor. He also calls us to engage in dialogue about the ways that we as the Church can strengthen the family, protect God’s Creation and ensure that our environment will be sustainable for future generations.

Here in the Diocese of Syracuse, the release of Laudato Si’ should inspire conversations within our own faith communities. This is an opportunity to talk about the ways that we can better protect God’s Creation and care for the poor. It is a chance for us to become a part of an ongoing conversation with fellow Christians and to be more thoughtful of our use of natural resources and our interactions with other people. I hope that you will take the time to read and reflect on the words of Pope Francis and I encourage you to continue to act as witnesses to our faith in caring for creation and for one another.

The encyclical can be read in its entirety at www.vatican.va. For more information, please visit our website at www.syrdio.org.

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