Pope Francis: time to develop a new form of universal solidarity
Preface by Pope Francis
Six years ago, I published the encyclical letter Laudato si’, on Care for our Common Home, appealing for a new shared dialogue about our common home – about how we are negatively shaping the future of our planet with our irresponsible behaviour. I rejoice to see that the encyclical has had a positive impact on our efforts to care for our common home in the Church, in our ecumenical and interreligious communities, in political and economic circles, in educational and cultural spheres, and beyond. After Laudato si’ was published, I invited the Catholics to join my beloved brother, His Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and our Orthodox brethren, in celebrating together the World Day of Prayer for Creation Care on 1 September. I am filled with gratitude that the urgent message of Laudato si’ has been echoed in important statements and more importantly actions from other religious traditions on our vocation to be custodians of God’s creation. I remember with joy the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, the Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders, and Bhumi Devi Ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.
Laudato si’ is a global call to be caretakers of our common home, and so it is wonderful to see that the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has taken the initiative to gather together reflections of persons and communities from around the world on the message(s) of Laudato si’. The ‘Laudato si’ Reader’, the title under which these reflections are gathered, is indeed a fitting conclusion to the ‘Laudato si’ Special Anniversary Year’ that was celebrated from 24 May 2020 to 24 May 2021.
The ‘Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor’ that I present in Laudato si’ as the emblematic consequence of our failure to care for our common home has been amplified lately by the Covid-19 emergency that humanity is still struggling to control. Thus, an ecological crisis, represented by the “cry of the earth”, and a social crisis, represented by “the cry of the poor”, have been made deadly by a healthcare crisis: the Covid-19 pandemic. So true are the words of my predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, that “the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.” (Caritas in veritate, n. 51).
Nevertheless, let us not forget that crises are also windows of opportunity: they are a chance to recognise and to learn from past mistakes. The present crisis should make us “turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (LS, 19). They are also a time for us to change gear, to change bad habits in order to be able to dream, co-create, and act together to realise just and equitable futures. It is time to develop a new form of universal solidarity that is grounded in fraternity, love, and mutual understanding: one that values people over profit, one that seeks new ways to understand development and progress. And so, it is my hope and prayer that we do not come out of this crisis the same way we entered it!
The recent past has shown us that it is primarily our children who understand the scale and enormity of the challenges society faces, especially the climate crisis. We must listen to them with open hearts. We must follow their lead for they are wise beyond their years.
This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and re-plan our future, committing to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. The time to act, and to act together, is now!
The "Laudato si' Reader. An Alliance of Care for Our Common Home" is for free download from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. A printed version will also be available from www.libreriaeditricevaticana.va.