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Pope releases preservation doctrine, prepares for US visit

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change ... I appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

Laudato Si’ or “praise be to you” is Pope Francis’s recently released encyclical on climate change. The encyclical, or letter sent from the Pope to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, has been considered highly popular and unique because although Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II were outspoken on the topic of climate change, no previous encyclical has been so directly devoted to the issues of global climate and poverty.

The letter fulfills a charge made by the United Nations: To successfully combat climate change, a culmination of scientific, political and moral will be necessary. Science has proven climate change and a growing political tide advocates for the halt of human waste and pollution. Now, using a two-prong approach, the Holy Father has weighed in on the moral implications of climate change and called on the world to take action. He reasons that we should preserve the earth because God has called on us to do so, and to cease destroying the earth because human life loses dignity in that process.

Over the summer, I was honored to attend a UN meeting on the release of Laudato Si’ that featured Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, a principal writer of the encyclical. He described the religious argument postulated by Pope Francis, which forms from a simple premise  —the call to preservation is located in the foundation of scripture. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till and keep it: Genesis 2:15

The encyclical goes on to assert the interrelatedness of environmental and social issues: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together, we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation ... the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poor.” This candidness is further described through examples of urban life, agriculture and “throwaway culture.”

Such rhetoric marks vast progress if it has the intended effect — making those previously indifferent to the topic of climate change, like myself, morally called to enter into care for what Pope Francis describes as “Our Common Home” and the people in it. There is no care for the poor without acceptance of global degradation, no hope for the third world should first world countries continue to use resources with reckless abandon.

Laudato Si’ is important. Climate change and global poverty cannot be influenced without worldwide support, and Pope Francis, an international religious and moral figure, stating that “reality is better than ideas,” on this subject is noteworthy. At the end of the month, the Pope will visit the United States to address the UN and Congress and to give a public mass in Philadelphia. Millions of Americans who are, perhaps, apathetic toward religion will have the “no one can love God if they do not love what God has created” opportunity to be inspired by the teachings of Pope Francis on love, family and the environment. It is my hope that the words in Laudato Si’ will be taken to heart by our nation’s leaders and citizens.

If you are interested in joining a group of University students attending the mass in Philadelphia given by Pope Francis on September 27, seek information on the Catholic Student Association at Rutgers Facebook page.

Henry Grabbe is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in political science and philosophy with a minor in music.

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