Vatican City, 3 July 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke at the high-level conference “People and planet first: the imperative to change course” (Rome, Augustinianum, 2-3 July), organised by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” and CIDSE, an international network of Catholic non-governmental development organisations.
The theme of the Cardinal's address was “The Importance of the Encyclical Laudato Si' for the Church and the World, in the Light of Major Political Events in 2015 and Beyond”. Three key United Nations conferences are scheduled to take place in the second half of 2015: the “Third International Conference on Financing for Development”, (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13 to 16 July); the “United Nations Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, (New York, U.S.A., 25 to 27 September); and the “Twenty-First Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change” or “COP21” (Paris, France, 30 November to 11 December), for the purpose of adopting a new agreement on climate change. Cardinal Parolin affirmed that “the Encyclical will have a certain impact on these events, but its breadth and depth go well beyond its context in time”.
The Secretary of State's discourse focused on three sectors to help understand of “Laudato si'” – the international sphere, the national and local sphere, and the sphere of the Church – emphasising the two pressing requirements relevant to all three, namely “redirecting our steps” and promoting a “culture of care”.
In the international framework, he said, there is a need for “an ever greater recognition that 'everything is connected' and that the environment, the earth and the climate are 'a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone'. They are a common and collective good, belonging to all and meant for all, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone'. Recognising these truths is not, however, a foregone conclusion. It calls for a firm commitment to develop an authentic ethics of international relations, one that is genuinely capable of facing up to a variety of issues, such as commercial imbalances, and foreign and ecological debt, which are denounced in the Encyclical”.
“Unfortunately, what has prevented the international community from assuming this perspective can be summed up in the following observations of the Pope: its 'failure of conscience and responsibility' and the consequent 'meagre awareness of its own limitations'. We live, however, in a context where it is possible to 'leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress... [and] to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power'; 'we have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral'”. The Cardinal remarked, “more than once I have had occasion to emphasise how the technological and operative base for promoting such progress is already available or within our reach. We must seize this great opportunity, given the real human capacity to initiate and forge ahead on a genuinely and properly virtuous course, one that irrigates the soil of economic and technological innovation, cultivating three interrelated objectives: to help human dignity flourish; to help eradicate poverty; and to help counter environmental decay”.
“The forces at work in the international sphere are not sufficient on their own, however, but must also be focused by a clear national stimulus, according to the principle of subsidiarity. And here we enter into the second area of our reflection, that of national and local action. Laudato Si' shows us that we can do much in this regard, and it offers some examples, such as: 'modifying consumption, developing an economy of waste disposal and recycling... [the improvement of] agriculture in poorer regions... through investment in rural infrastructures, a better organisation of local [and] national markets, systems of irrigation, and the development of techniques of sustainable agriculture', the promotion of a 'circular model of production', a clear response to the wasting of food, and the acceleration of an 'energy transition'”. He added, “unfortunately, 'there are too many special interests, and economic interests too easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected'”.
The final area considered by the Secretary of State was the Catholic Church, who “finds nourishment in the example of St. Francis who, as indicated from the very opening pages of the Encyclical, 'lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace”.
He concluded, “Pope Francis states once again that 'the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics', but seems to be the bearer of the need to question the meaning and purpose of all human activity. What is well-known by now is the Encyclical's call for us to reflect on 'what kind of world we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up'. The answer which the Pope offers to this question is quite revealing: 'When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. … It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity”.