There has been much speculation regarding Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology. Will he side with those who raise the alarm on climate change? Is he going to choose a moderate approach? Will the encyclical call for changes to help the poor?
Commonweal’s Michael Peppard seems to think Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has lifted the curtain on the pope’s upcoming encyclical. Cardinal Turkson gave a lecture last week, entitled, “Integral ecology and the horizon of hope: concern for the poor and for creation in the ministry of Pope Francis” which seemed to do more than simply hint at the themes of the ecology encyclical. As Peppard said, Cardinal Turkson “might well have titled it, An outline of the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical.”
The lecture’s overall themes and key phrases resound with the language Pope Francis has used since day one of his pontificate. But more importantly, it signals both how scripture will be interpreted anew against the backdrop of ecological degradation and how Francis’s teaching on “integral ecology” builds on the magisterium of the previous two popes.
The phrase ‘integral ecology” seems primed to become the encyclical’s central idea. Turkson describes it as “the key to addressing the inter-related issues of human ecology, development and the natural environment.’
In the past, Pope Francis has referred to an “economy that kills.” Turkson explained:
It is not political theory but biblical revelation. Our world’s ecology—whether natural or societal—suggests that “humanity may now have tilled too much and kept too little, that our relationship with the Creator, with our neighbour, especially the poor, and with the environment has become fundamentally ‘un-kept.’”
Francis seems likely to use this call to stewardship from Genesis 2 as a primary scriptural resource for the development of Catholic social thought, just as John Paul II used Genesis 4 (Cain and Abel) as the cornerstone of his most important encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.
Some have observed that Pope Francis seems “spontaneous” (if they are being generous) or “unpredictable” (if they are not.) However, Peppard summarizes his piece by saying that Turkson’s lecture show a unified train of thought from the pope.
One can see in Turkson’s remarks just how unified the main themes of his pontificate have been. The seeds of this encyclical on “integral ecology” were present in his very first homily: the care for the poor, the care for creation, and the horizon of hope.