(By Bill Patenaude, Catholic Ecology website)
September 10, 2015
Bishops, clergy, academics, and community leaders joined more than 350 Minnesotans yesterday for a heartland perspective on the global and personal implications of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical Laudato Si’. The variety and number of those taking part made the gathering the very sort of community, dialogue-centered event that the Holy Father and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace want to see more of.
Developed by the Minnesota Catholic Conference—that is, the bishops of Minnesota—and co-sponsored by Catholic Rural Life and the University of St. Thomas, the forum allowed participants ample opportunity to chat about ecology and environmental concerns from the range of perspectives that ecological discussions should have. In part, conversations highlighted the inter-connectedness of social and individual struggles and hopes, and it showcased U.S. bishops’ support for specific federal policies designed to protect our natural resources environmental legislation.
“Since the release of the encyclical Laudato Si’, we have received an outpouring of interest from Minnesota’s Catholics and those of other faiths who want to learn more about the document and about its major themes,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of event host Minnesota Catholic Conference.
“Pope Francis is telling us that if you love God, you will love his creation and protect it. When we treat the earth simply as raw material to be exploited for power and profit, we will often do the same to human beings. The pope is calling all of us to embrace a new ethic that does justice to both persons and the environment.”
Following a recorded greeting by federal EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, an event co-sponsor, provided opening remarks. “Laudato Si’ is a watershed moment for the Church and for the world. Pope Francis has given the Church a great gift that needs to be unpacked, and this event helps explore the significance of this letter,” Ennis said.
University of St. Thomas Center for Catholic Studies director Dr. Michael Naughton is hopeful that the defining ideas emerging from the encyclical are shaping the current and future conversation on the ecology in the U.S. and abroad. “Pope Francis wants to reconnect that the nature ‘out there’ is inextricably connected to the human nature in each of us. He is drawing from Catholic teaching and emphasizing that what happens in the family, as well as in education, business, and other human institutions, has direct implications to what is happening in our natural environment,” said Naughton.
“The integration of human and natural ecology, what Francis calls ‘integral ecology,’ is a defining idea that I hope will shape conversations about the environment on the global and national stage in the coming years.”