“Laudato Si’”: A Perspective from South America
August 24, 2015
By Sister Ana Maria Siufi
Sister Ana Maria Siufi is a Sister of Mercy and justice advocate living in Patagonia. She shares this reflection on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Laudato Si.’”
As I was reading the encyclical, my heart lit up like the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus. I felt happy because the Spirit is offering a bright light to a world walking in darkness.
I also felt that it wasn’t a comfortable document freshly dispatched from an office, but rather words emerging from among the marginalized and invisible, the creatures that have disappeared, those without rights; words that carry smells of soil, oil-covered sands, garbage dumps; words that would surely upset a few, yet would inspire others to develop a new consciousness and way of living as members of our common home.
I believe that the encyclical can be understood through these key concepts:
- Ethics and Gospel: The encyclical calls us to a compassionate listening to the cry of the land and of the impoverished, and it calls us to see that our neighbor is every being—human or non-human—because every creature has unique value and meaning that deserves to be respected. It is a call to take responsibility for this ecological degradation, according to the amount of destruction each of us provokes. It invites us to seek ecological conversion, thus recapturing compassion, love, the search for harmony, creativity, simplicity, brotherhood, and fairness.
- Educational: The encyclical rejects the lies and myths with which our politics, economy, and globalized culture justify and conceal the imposed capitalist model, and it leads us to desire a profound change in concepts that are off track, such as anthropocentrism, development, production, growth, ecology, the power of technology, waste and consumerism. It highlights serious contributions from independent scientists and engineers, environmentalists, theologians, other religions, bishops and organizations from all over the world.
- Integrating: The encyclical has a truly global and cosmic perspective, seeing the connections and interrelatedness of everything. It suggests that sustainability will come from another world that we must urgently construct—an ecology not only environmental, but also social and economic, one which would include politics and culture. It will come from a cultural revolution or a way of living that requires a complete turnabout from a system that doesn’t value the lives of all people, but instead is rooted in injustice, inequality and plunder.
- Prophetic: With courage and indignation, the encyclical denounces the cruelty of a world wrapped up in a “spiral of self-destruction” (paragraph 163), which we can call ecocide and genocide. It calls for an urgent commitment on the part of us all to begin again with a reverence for life. This call is particularly aimed at those in power structures in national, international and corporate arenas. It gives them the grave responsibility for radically changing the path of a system that feeds itself on the destruction of nature and vulnerable communities.
- Spiritual: It inspires us to a mystical life, to witness and praise the Divine Mystery present in all creation in its goodness, beauty and life. This faith inspires us to become gardeners of nature and caretakers of each sister and brother, especially the poorest, who are most hurt by the self-serving depredation of the market and the technocracy. This invitation is extended to those of all beliefs, recognizing their important contributions, and to non-believers as well.
I believe that many of us, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, are celebrating this message supporting the rights of “all humanity and every being,” and we wish to spread the message and to live by it in our daily lives. We thank Pope Francis from the bottom of our hearts for this call to tenderness, compassion and peace, and for reminding us of the urgency of this kairos, this opportune time to be reborn with hope and commitment. Let’s not let this call be silenced—the world cannot continue to be so mixed-up!