Archbishop Smith is welcoming the new encyclical from Pope Francis, saying the Holy Father has added a vital moral dimension to the global debate about ecology and the environmental challenges we face.

The enclyclical, entitled Laudato Si’, On Care for our Common Home, was released today at the Vatican. In the letter he says is addressed to everyone on the planet, Pope Francis focuses on the idea of ‘integral ecology,’connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. He describes in detail the forms of environmental degradation in our world, examines their root causes, and proposes a number of ways to address them.

 “What the Pope wants to raise is that dimension of the issue which is, in fact, more than just another aspect but indeed the foundation upon which all dialogue and solutions need to be based: the moral,” said Archbishop Smith. “This is fundamentally a moral issue. It is precisely this, his widely accepted moral authority, that the Pope seeks to contribute to the question of how we best care for the created world and ourselves as part of it.”

“Pope Francis decries not only the natural degradation that we see clearly in climate change, pollution, desertification and so on, but also the social degradation witnessed in global inequality, devastating poverty, human trafficking, family breakdown and the like. And these impact one another. So, a true ecological approach is always a social approach that will hear and address the cry of both the earth and the poor.”

“It follows from this that the way forward is conversion, an ecological conversion, which is to say, a new lifestyle reflective of our duties to God, neighbour and nature. … So one can see that this is not just another in a line of similar statements on the environment. It addresses climate change, but it is clearly not only about climate change. The Pope is offering a new breadth of perspective in which the solutions to that and other challenges need to be found.

“This letter is, in the final analysis, a hymn of praise and thanks to God for the gift of creation. This letter, addressed to all people, is the cry of a man deeply in love with God and the created world. This love gives rise to a deep lament over the degradation in the natural and human realms, especially among the poor. Yet it is also a love which leads ultimately to hope that we shall find a way forward by which we shall learn, once again, both to cultivate and preserve this garden of the earth, which is the common home of all.”