In Rome gathering, Laudato Si’ urged to become action

Some five-hundred participants attend Vatican conference devoted to implementing goals of the three-year-old eco-encyclical

The International Conference Marking the 3rd Anniversary of Laudato Si’ wrapped up in Rome today—but the final “take action” marching orders from Cardinal Peter Turkson to some five hundred participants will certainly maintain and focus the momentum of carrying out the vision of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical.

Few papal statements have received the attention that Laudato Si’ has. Indeed, as seen this past week, the document continues to attract attention from Pope Francis himself, from his curia, and from a small army of front-line lay and religious eco-advocates. Like Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae—On Human Life—Laudato Si’ has both inspired and polarized Catholics and non-Catholics with its sweeping view of human choices and the implications thereof.

For their part, high-level Vatican officials—such as Cardinal Turkson and Secretariat of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin—have been working overtime to keep the spotlight on the pontiff’s eco-encyclical while at the same time assuaging critics of Catholic eco-activity, most especially on the right.

On that note, the conference heard from Lord Deben of the United Kingdom, a British Conservative Party politician, formerly a member of Parliament, and now a member of the House of Lords. Lord Deben has been active in eco-circles for some time and was interviewed here at Catholic Ecology to spotlight a conservative argument for conservation.

The Holy Father speaks

In his address yesterday to those gathered, the Holy Father summarized Laudato Si’s central themes and stressed its calls for what Saint John Paul II called ecological conversion.

That conversion, the Holy Father said, is a prerequisite for the many activities, initiatives, and changes in the status quo that will be needed to reign in the rampant eco-destruction brought on by human activity.

Pope Francis highlighted two groups in particular that must be considered in an effort to protect the created order: the young and indigenous peoples, two groups that will continue to receive attention in upcoming ecclesial activities.

"So I express my hope that concern for the state of our common home will translate into systematic and concerted efforts aimed at an integral ecology." + Pope Francis

The pontiff struck an urgent tone, as did most every speaker, given the accumulation of scientific evidence regarding issues such as biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, and climate change. Even as the conference was taking place, news of excessive flooding from super-saturated atmospheres (here and here for instance), as well as record-breaking temperatures were making the case for those in attendance.

What's next

The goals of this week’s conference were both mundane and sweeping. As with any gathering in any sector, the past few days in Rome offered opportunities for eco-advocates and organizations to mingle, network, and hear coordinating marching orders from Pope Francis and his trusted advisors.

But now, with participants heading back to their own organizations and nations, comes the real test: can the momentum and the relationships that arose out of this week’s gathering continue?

From early reports, it looks like the answer is an unqualified yes.

Already, participants have been reporting that both the official and more than a few unofficial, random discussions will assist with global coordination in messaging and activities, which will be a huge win for Catholic eco-engagement.

On a personal note, news of the gathering has been something of a distant echo as I remain home to care for an elderly parent with Parkinson’s. For as long as my mom remains alive, I have a self-imposed travel ban, which precludes my attendance at events like this week’s conference. But then, as I’ve said before, what right do I have to engage in caring for Earth if I can’t first take care of my own mother?

And perhaps, in the end, that was the big takeaway from this week’s Laudato Si’ conference—global coordination is important, but what will save the world—and save souls—in the local work done in families and communities.

May all those participants return to their homes safely and with the inspiration and renewed relationships to help one and all care for our beautiful, life-supporting, and threatened common home.

Photo: Tomás Insua

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.