pope francis

A Prescription for the Earth

Deforestaion

Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

AS THE FATE of the world hangs in the balance, one humble pastor—leader of the world’s smallest nation-state—offers a word. Well, closer to 40,000 words.

Pope Francis’ much awaited social teaching on ecology was released in June to global acclaim and thunderous Twitterapplause. Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be to You”) takes its name from a line in St. Francis of Assisi’s “The Canticle of the Creatures,” written in 1225. The encyclical lays out the house rules for this earthly commons we share—archaea, bacteria, and eukaryota alike. (Google it. You, me, all the fauna and flora, are part of eukaryota.) So, what do you need to know?

1. The news is not good. The world’s leading spiritual physician has diagnosed “every person living on this planet” with a progressive and degenerative disease. A soul sickness has spread through us to infect the soil, seas, skies, and even the seasons. Among humans, the poorest have the least resistance and the richest are the major vectors. This disease multiplies in isolation and loneliness, with symptoms of obsessive consumption, greed and corruption, and habitual narcissism. “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.”

2. This disease is having dire consequences: objectification of the other, a failure of awe in the presence of beauty, and a defiance of reality by those who claim the “invisible forces of the market will regulate the economy” and dismiss the impact on society and nature as “collateral damage.”

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The Power of Encounter

Pope Francis

Pope Francis at a general audience, April, 30, 2014. softdelusion66 / Shutterstock.com 

Do you remember the video clips of 5-year-old Sophie Cruz dashing across Constitution Avenue to Pope Francis’s popemobile during his visit to Washington, D.C., last September? The story of that encounter went viral: a young child with undocumented parents from Mexico who was granted permission to approach the pope, give him a letter, and receive a hug.

At the time, many seemed surprised by encounters like these during the pope’s U.S. trip — particularly that he would choose to make personal contact with the realities faced by marginalized populations. But this encounter-centered approach has been Francis’ way of operating since the outset of his pontificate.

Giving Up Indifference for Lent

Here is what Pope Francis said to the world in his Lenten message:

“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, the pope seems to want us to give up our indifference to others.

Pope Francis' Upcoming Mexico Visit Draws Mixed Reviews

Image via REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/RNS

On a recent morning outside the Church of San Agustin in the middle-class neighborhood of Narvarte, two students sell bric-a-brac and blast the Beatles’ “Let It Be” through a smartphone hooked up to speakers. When asked what Pope Francis’ first visit to the country as pontiff on Feb. 12 means to them, they shrug. “It’s not like he’s going to come in and magically make all of our problems go away,” said Uriel Velazquez Tonantzin, 20, who dropped out of seminary a year ago to take a music composition program.

Sex Abuse Victim Allegedly Sidelined by Papal Panel

Peter Saunders. Image via REUTERS/Tony Gentile/RNS

One of the two victims of clerical sexual abuse serving on a Vatican commission set up by Pope Francis has apparently been sidelined. The Holy See on Feb. 6 said Peter Saunders, a British Catholic who was abused by Jesuit priests as a teenager, is taking a “leave of absence” from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Pope Francis Praises China in Latest Effort to Thaw Chilly Relations

Image via REUTERS/Stringer/RNS

Pope Francis’ impassioned praise of China this week is the strongest sign of the pontiff’s ambitious agenda to use his personal and political clout to transform the historically fraught relations between Beijing and the Holy See. “For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom,” the pope said at the start of his interview with Asia Times, which was published Feb. 2.

DiCaprio Gets a Papal Audience Ahead of Oscars

Image via Catholic News Svc/Twitter

Possibly hoping for divine intervention ahead of next month’s Academy Awards, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio met with fellow environmentalist Pope Francis. Speaking Italian, DiCaprio kissed the pontiff’s hand on Jan. 28 and offered a “grazie” [thank you] “for granting me this private audience with you.” Then, switching to English, he gave the pontiff a book of paintings by Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch, whose works meld fantastic imagery with reality.

Pope Francis: Powerful and Rich Risk Going to Hell If They Ignore the Poor

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis is taking direct aim at the wealthy and powerful of the world, saying in his message for Lent that they are often “slaves to sin” who, if they ignore the poor, “will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell.”

“The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow,” the pontiff wrote in his annual Lenten exhortation, which was released on Jan. 26.

Pope Francis Meets Iran’s President to Boost Nuke Deal, Mideast Peace

Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met for talks on Jan. 26 — the first such encounter since 1999 — in a private meeting in which the pontiff pressed Rouhani on fostering Middle East peace and countering terrorism and arms trafficking.

The 39-minute meeting in the apostolic palace also touched on the landmark deal on Iran’s nuclear capacity that has been praised by the pontiff, and the two leaders discussed the situation of the church in Iran and interreligious dialogue.

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