By Robin Gomes
Integral ecology should lead to new lifestyles that respond to the cry of the earth and the poor within a spiritual dimension. This is what the Laudato Si’ Year and its upcoming seven-year follow-up action plan intend to achieve. Salesian priest Father Joshtrom Kureethadam made the remark in view of Earth Day, Thursday, April 22.
The Indian priest, who is Coordinator of the Sector on Ecology and Creation under the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, has been overseeing the Special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year from May 24, 2020 to May 24, 2021, which Pope Francis called to mark the 5th anniversary of his encyclical, Laudato sí. Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the yearlong event was marked with a slew of events, held mostly virtually.
Dimensions of lifestyles
Father Joshstrom, who is also Chair of Philosophy of Science and Director of the Institute of Social and Political Sciences at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, underscored the importance of the “connection between new lifestyle and integral ecology,” saying new lifestyles cannot be merely mean the use of renewable energy, recycling, or taking public transport. “All these actions are important, but in the vision of integral ecology, the approach has to be much more comprehensive, much more holistic - that we need to respond to the crisis of the earth,” he told Vatican News.
“We also need to respond to the cry of the poor. So we need to put the poor, the suffering, the vulnerable at the center of everything we do at the center of the Church today.”
He pointed to the third aspect of this new lifestyle, namely the “dimension of spirituality, that the Earth is God's creation.” Thus, “a new lifestyle would also mean acquiring this contemplative view of the natural world, that we pray the creation, that we celebrate creation, that creation enters into our liturgy.” This is the reason, as Pope Francis explains in Laudato sí, why we give thanks to God, such as before and after meals.
This way, Father Joshtrom pointed out, “new lifestyles will become integral” when we bring the physical, moral, spiritual dimensions together, including also “the aspect of education, economics and politics”. “So only when all these aspects are brought together, they will become really new lifestyles within the vision of integral ecology.”
Integral ecology in public and secular discourse
With the Special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year about to conclude in a little over a month, on May 24, the Salesian priest pointed to two aspects of the celebration. “On the one hand, we are happy to see that the concept of integral ecology has entered into public discourse.” He said it is not only in Church circles that integral ecology is being discussed. His experience at several secular conferences and events at universities and in other areas and fields shows that people speak about integral ecology, which, he said, is “a good thing to be thankful for.”
Integral ecology in action
However, Father Joshtrom noted, there is still that challenge that “integral ecology has not really come into action.” Hence, translating “integral ecology into action” is what he sees as a mission that should accompany us.
Finally, Father Joshtrom spoke about the so-called Laudato Si Action Platform, which will kick off at the end of the The Laudato Sí Year. The purpose is to make Catholic communities around the world totally sustainable in the spirit of the integral ecology of Laudato sí. He said the seven-year-long Laudato sí Action Platform will involve families, parishes, dioceses, schools, universities, hospitals, organizations, businesses, healthcare centres, and religious orders. “So almost everyone, but as communities, we become Laudato sí communities, but always in the perspective of integral ecology,” he said.