Template for COP 22 and Beyond
In the spring of next year there are celebratory events and seminars planned to mark 125 years of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter Rerum Novarum, the first in a series of social encyclicals spanning one and a quarter centuries which were to define the contours of the Catholic Church’s relationship with the modern world. Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, the central magisterial document of reference in the current special issue of EuropeInfos, fits neatly into the tradition launched by Pope Leo XIII but also breaks significant new ground.
Laudato Si’ stands to be remembered by future generations of the Church, and to find an honoured place in countless footnotes in academic journals, scientific publications and Church teaching documents down the road. The long-term fate of Laudato Si’ will depend a lot on whether the vision of the globe as our common, shared home for which all of us have a collective responsibility will move mainstream in the forward thinking of those who govern our planet and its inter-related parts.
Pope Francis looked over the parapet of the Apostolic Palace and spoke to a world audience. The Pontiff addressed all men and women of good will. He had listened, he said, to the cry of the poor but, in this context more significantly, to the cry of the earth. The imagery he chose came from the Bible but can also be found in the folklore and legends, the fairy tales and bed-time stories which have fed the imagination of countless generations of children. The animals are our friends and companions, the world of inanimate nature has a personality all its own, the loving design of the Creator is reflected in every single operation of the complex machine we call our world. A new language, a fresh way of looking at familiar reality, and an alternative proposal for how we calibrate our relationship with not just our world but with all creatures who inhabit it feature in a way which is often startling in Pope Francis’ magisterial document.
The EU is one of the most significant actors in the COP 21 negotiations in Paris. Our readership is primarily, although not exclusively, from within the EU family. It is our view that Europe, despite being a model of best practice in several ways and despite its proud record of meeting targets set at earlier COP meetings, can still do better. At EuropeInfos we will continue to raise the ecology/climate change question, and suggest a climate impact audit in the full range of EU policy areas. We too want to mainstream climate and are gratified to see that aspects of the question raised by COMECE in the past – the link with energy provision, for example – have now moved to the top of political and scientific discussions of the climate issue.
Pope Francis does not set a to-do list, Laudato Si’ does not contain boxes to be ticked, but it presents to the world community a set of moral principles which are indispensible in the fashioning of any new, coherent vision of humanity’s relationship with the created universe. It is the litmus paper of all future discussions on climate matters. And it has been good the EuropeInfos has placed it centre stage.
Patrick H. Daly
General Secretary of COMECE