Jun 23, 2015

On the new Encyclical of Pope Francis

Holy Father, Pope Francis, has issued his new Encyclical "Laudato Si" on 18 June. The new encyclical is on the theme of Ecology and Climate change. Especially the issue of climate change has been quite controversial and even before the publication of the Encyclical, we could hear number of voices critical against Holy Father to take popular stance which is pointing out human activities as the cause of global warming and climate change mostly because the counter measures may cause stagnation in economy and changing comfortable lifestyle of many countries, especially developed countries. However, Holy Father was clear enough to write as follows.

"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes." (23)

We are called seriously examine our life style. We are called to seriously examine our relationship with each other and nature. We are called seriously examine our relationship with our creator, God. And we are called seriously examine our responsibilities for future generation.

Following is my comment on the Encyclical published by the Asianews a few days ago.

As for Caritas Internationalis, which recently completed its 20th General Assembly in Rome with the theme "One Human Family, Caring for Creation", environmental concern and climate change are one of main issues included within its action plan for next 4 years. Also Caritas Asia, for which I have been elected as a president for second term, has been seriously working for environmental concern through our sustainable agriculture program with number of member organizations in Asia taking into account climate change issue which have been causing serious problems over many farmers' living and working conditions in Asia. We do not have to travel a long distance in Asia to see the reality of environmental degradation caused by climate change through repeated major scale natural disasters in recent days.

Therefore, I am happy to receive this encyclical of Pope Francis which gives us solid foundation for our activities in this field and convincing teachings for Catholics to commit oneself to do something for ecology.  As Pope Francis repeatedly remind us that the charitable activities are not an option in our faith but rather a part and parcel of it, in a similar way Pope reminds us in this encyclical that all the faithful have obligation to do something for mother nature. It is made clear to all of us through the encyclical that taking good care of entire creation is part and parcel of our vocation. Also Holy Father reminds us to consider the consequence of our life style to future generation. So it is not enough to provide temporal remedy to the present crisis to rescue people affected by climate change and environmental degradation but also we have to always consider long term solution for future generations which may require us to change present comfoatble life style.

I am also happy because the encyclical has been written from the view point of so-called developing countries. Modern society has been controlled by less than 20% of population in so-called developed countries and policies to guide the international society often reflect the interest of this few group of people who has financial resources. However, as Holy Father knows the reality of people's life in Latin America, he stands with poor and marginalized and writes this encyclical from there. That is why there are several points in the encyclical which are hard for people living in comfortable conditions in developed countries to accept such as changing present life style and recognize that developed countries are owing much to developing countries as the former has exploited natural resources of the latter for years. So through the encyclical it is clear now to say that it is not because of generosity of rich countries to assist development of poorer countries but it is because rich countries are obliged to do so.

Catholic Bishops of Japan has just completed its annual general assembly in Tokyo. On the last day of the assembly, 18 June, Bishops organized a study session on the issue of nuclear power generation with number of experts and theologians as lecturers. Though direct mention against nuclear power generation is not found in the encyclical, at least its careful and wise use and also consideration to the local environment with involvement of local people for planning are found in several sections.

As it is well known, after the 11 March 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japanese Catholic Bishops are advocating immediate abolition of more than 50 nuclear power generating plants in Japan which are prone to earthquakes. Of course we do receive quite a criticism over our position from general public and even from some Catholics saying that to maintain present life style and economy of Japan, the nuclear power generations can not be abolished.  That is exact the point in our message in November 2011 against nuclear power generation. We are not just calling for abolishment of the plants but also, at the end of the message, we are calling people to change our life style to reduce use of energy. Holy Father also mentions necessity to change life style of modern society which requires excessive use of energy and call for put more resources to develop renewable energy sources. I think Japanese Catholic Bishops have to be advocate of development of renewable energy sources in Japan and also call the government, business circle and general public to be responsible for future generation and also act responsible for the common good not only consider future of Japan alone but consider entire creation.

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