An extract from ‘A reflection on Laudato Si’ mi Signore – On Care for our Common Home’ written by Fr. Liam O’Callaghan
Chapter Five – Lines of Approach and Action (163-201)
In Chapter Five , Pope Francis is calling for dialogue on environmental policy on the international, national and local community levels because “interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan” (164). He is not afraid to judge international bodies severely when he says that because of lack of political will: “recent world Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations….failing to reach truly meaningful and effective agreements.” (166). No doubt with the COP 21 meeting in Paris in December 2015 in mind, he declares that “enforceable international agreements are urgently needed” (173). He challenges national and local Governments to uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Francis also encourages people to become active and take action in their local communities. His most significant appeal is addressed to those who hold political office: “if they are courageous, they will attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility” (181). This dialogue must include transparent decision-making so that the policies serve human fulfilment and not just economic interests.
There is an “urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life” (189). This has not yet happened as witnessed by the failure to learn the lessons taught by the financial crisis of 2007-8. What is needed is to promote a sustainable and equitable development which is within the broader concept of quality of life. This leads Francis to propose the politically unpalatable idea of “decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth” (193). He says we need to redefine our notion of progress: “development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress” (194). Economy has got to be much more than just the maximization of profits. The chapter ends by calling on the world’s religions to be in greater dialogue with each other and with science: “for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor and building networks of respect and fraternity” (201).
Fr. Liam is a Columban working in Pakistan.