(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on Thursday the foundations of the common home humanity shares “should be built upon the interconnectedness of our relationship with God, our neighbour, the environment and ourselves.”
Cardinal Parolin was presenting the Latvian translation of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ during a visit to the Latvian capital, Riga.
He said being “guardians” of “integral ecology” is a challenge “that arises from the presupposition that human beings, on the one hand, without a clear ethical orientation, run the risk of adopting lifestyle patterns leading to extremely self-destructive outcomes, and, on the other hand, have the possibility of opting for goodness and truth, and of opening themselves to beauty and the capacity to react.”
The full text of Cardinal Parolin’s remarks are below
Presentation of the Latvian translation
of the Encyclical Laudato Si’
Riga, Latvia, 12 May 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here for the presentation of the Latvian translation of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’. As you know, official versions already exist in other languages, including Latin, Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and German.
The Encyclical, which is concerned with “care for our common home”, bears the date 24 May 2015, the Solemnity of Pentecost, the day on which the Church was made manifest to the world through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 6). Since that day, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him. … By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days’, the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated” (No. 732).
In this regard, it is worth recalling the passage in the Acts of the Apostles which recounts that “when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
“It filled all the house where they were sitting”: this echoes a term which we find in the title of Pope Francis’ Encyclical, namely “home”, which, in the case of the Encyclical, is broadened into the notion of our “common home”.
In today’s brief intervention, I would like to touch on three aspects, which in a way derive from the account of the Acts of the Apostles I have just quoted: namely, the common home, the growth of our awareness of having to assume our individual responsibility and the need to extend our responsibility to the collective dimension on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity.
Let us begin with the first point: the common home.
There is a growing conviction “that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home” (LS, 164). Similarly, the grave damage which our common home is undergoing is also unfortunately ever more evident. This damage is to be seen not only in the natural environment but also in the social and cultural ones. Furthermore, “the deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 51). In this perspective, Pope Francis often emphasizes that everything in the world is intimately connected: “Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble” (LG, 117). This is also because human existence itself is based on four relations which are profoundly interconnected, namely the relations that each one of us has with God, with our neighbour, with himself or herself, and with nature. Failure to recognize these four basic connections is one of the principal impediments to bringing about a radical change in current destructive cultural and anthropological attitudes.
Laudato Si’, especially in its first chapter, presents many preoccupying details on “what is happening to our common home”, and thus poses the urgent challenge to safeguard our common home, through effective cooperation on the part of the whole human family aimed at promoting sustainable and integral development, since, as Pope Francis says, “we know that things can change” (LS, 13). Hence, faced with this concrete concern, there is a strong sign of hope: “The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (LG, 13). The foundations of this common home should be built upon the interconnectedness of our relationship with God, our neighbour, the environment and ourselves. This calls for the restoration of “the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God” (LS, 210).
Let us now turn to the second aspect which I would like to consider: our growing awareness of the need to assume our individual responsibility, based on the four levels of equilibrium which I mentioned. Each of us is called to overcome our indifference in the face of continuous signs of malaise seen in the natural environment and the cultural one in which we are immersed: ecological and social degradation, a sense of precariousness and insecurity, the silent breakdown of the bonds of integration and social communion, the prevalence of a throwaway culture “which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish” (LS, 22), the loss of the meaning of live and of coexistence. “Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything” (LS, 113).
The theme of environmental degradation raises questions about our personal lifestyle. Laudato Si’ shows clearly that the ecological crisis derives from or makes evident the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis currently affecting humanity; this ecological crisis “is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (LS, 217). This also requires us to recognize the errors, sins, vices and negligence in our daily lifestyle, leading to “heartfelt repentance and desire to change” (LS, 218) in order to become “guardians” of that equilibrium at the various levels I mentioned and which can be synthesized in the notion of “integral ecology”, which is so clearly set out in the Holy Father’s Encyclical.
To be “guardians” of that equilibrium is clearly “a great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge” (LS, 202) but it is not something optional. It is a challenge that arises from the presupposition that human beings, on the one hand, without a clear ethical orientation, run the risk of adopting lifestyle patterns leading to extremely self-destructive outcomes, and, on the other hand, have the possibility of opting for goodness and truth, and of opening themselves to beauty and the capacity to react. Pope Francis launches a strong appeal when he says in Laudato Si’: “I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours” (LS, 205).
This reflection brings us to the third point of my intervention: personal commitment is essential but not sufficient. It is necessary to extend our responsibility to the collective arena, on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity which starts out from the single individual to reach the international community, passing through the various areas of social aggregation at the community, local and national level. In this regard, special mention should be made of the family where “we first learn how to show love and respect for life ... In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say ‘thank you’ as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings” (LS, 213).
It is necessary to adopt a global perspective, in space and time, which obliges us to think in terms of a common project, because “the natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone” (LS, 95). This observation takes on greater significance in the light of the notion of “integral ecology”, where the term “ecology”, which derives from the Greek words oikos and logos and from an etymological point of view means “study of the home”, is understood in terms of a dynamic which integrates the various dimensions of the common home: environmental, social, ethical, economic and so on.
Furthermore, this understanding has been adopted, to a certain extent, in many international political debates. I am thinking, for example, of the processes inherent to the 2030 Development Agenda, which produced the Objectives of Sustainable Development in September 2015, and of climate change, with the adoption of the demanding Paris Agreement of last December. In both cases, there was full awareness that, in order to combat damage to the environment effectively, it is indispensable to see the struggle against poverty and ethical and social degradation as a primary objective.
In these international processes, we can see how the emphasis placed on the close connection of humanity and environment, based on the growing awareness of our responsibility towards our common home, to which Laudato Si’ frequently makes reference, finds practical expression.
This awareness of our responsibility should stimulate each of us to distance himself or herself from the throwaway culture and promote seriously a “‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society” (LS, 231).