It’s the poor who pay humanity’s ecological debt
Mrs Goulard, what do you think is the main message of Pope Francis’ Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ ?
Pope Francis is inviting mankind to implement an “integral ecology” in order to safeguard our “common home” which is this planet. The defence of creation lies at the core of his message. This is important because the Old Testament is overflowing with references to the splendour of creation, especially in the Song of Songs. His letter represents not just an ecological initiative stricto sensu but also an approach that encompasses both economic and social aspects. Indeed, he tackles not only climate change and threats to biodiversity but also inequality and the quality of human life. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together,” declares the Pope. It’s the poorest who pay the highest price for humanity’s ecological debt. Those are his strongest messages.
In which areas of your work in the European Parliament do you expect to feel the greatest impact of this Encyclical?
The Pope’s call reaches out to all responsible people, whether or not they are believers. Following the spirit of the Gospel, the Pope is speaking to all men of good will.
By calling for a universal initiative which would reach across national borders and give topmost priority to the preservation of our “common home”, Pope Francis rises above national horizons. In so doing he touches upon the concerns of all pro-Europeans, especially those of European Parliament members who are anxious to make people understand that the national scale is not always the appropriate level for action. The rapid disappearance of many animal and plant species, just like global warming and the persistence of poverty, all call for ambitious commitments followed by action on the scale of large continental blocs, going far beyond national sovereignty and political loyalties.
In your view, are any points missing from the Encyclical?
The Pope has not drawn up any precise proposals. Still, it is not his job to prescribe concrete measures with a view to putting right the dysfunctions that he is denouncing. He is speaking in his capacity as Pope, as a spiritual leader and moral authority, not as an expert or worldly leader. But helping ordinary people to understand what is at stake, spurring them to take voluntary action on their home turf and to become more responsible in their daily lives (at home, transport, energy consumption etc) – such initiatives are nevertheless essential.
Pope Francis pointed out that his Encyclical could be welcomed as a contribution to the dialogue between Science and Politics. What do you believe are the most urgent themes to be tackled in this dialogue?
You cannot conduct a dialogue between science and politics if you exclude ethics from the debate. The contribution of Pope Francis, among others, gives a direction to scientific research and to political decisions. It is not up to the Church to have the final word, but she can help to encourage an open-minded debate between scientists on the one side and experts and citizens on the other.
Science and religion do not run on the same track. However, ethics and moral reflection on humanity’s impact upon nature and in society may lead towards a more genuine scientific judgment, or at least towards a better dialogue between scientists and ordinary citizens.
What contribution are you expecting from the Churches and religious communities with regard to drawing up a new world order (Weltordnung)?
The Churches, as communities of solidarity and centres of pastoral activities, are in a good position to promote a lifestyle that is more sustainable. At least they can encourage people to change their habits for the benefit of humanity and its environment. The Churches are even able to mobilise their faithful, who are people of faith and full of good will, in order to preserve a human dimension at the centre of urban management concerns.
This ethic, with its new focus on the Gospel message of goodness and mercy, should be supported by the Churches and spread far and wide, revealing itself both in the behaviour of society and in the relationships between Heads of State. That would make a substantial contribution to the emergence of a new World Order.
Member of the European Parliament
Translated from the original text in French