AEFJN participated in the Second Laudato SI reflection day organized recently by CIDSE[1] in collaboration with COMECE[2], CCEE[3], GCCM[4], JESC[5] and Justice & Peace Europe. It was a discernment space offered by these Church actors to keep not only the Spirit of Laudato SI alive but also to deepen it and help to entrench it in the public space. Since the publication of Laudato SI in May 2015, the encyclical has occupied a prominent place in many ecological discussions. However, AEFJN contends that it is neither the citation of the document during relevant public discussions nor the development of new concepts around it to nurture public debates but the engendering of its values and principles in the formulation of public policies.

Pope Francis did not mince word in his universal call to a change of lifestyle as well as the transformation of public policies by the values that the document enunciates as the only way to safeguard our environment. While it is true that there are incredible initiatives inspired by Laudato SI, it is also true that considering the urgency of the situation those initiatives are insignificant to constitute the critical mass that would trigger the desired change. It is even more worrisome that the continent of Africa that is the most vulnerable to climate change appears not to be responsive to the situation.

The problem that Laudato SI addresses is our shared human problem, and we have a collective responsibility towards the resolution of the issue. In this vein, the call of Laudato SI to change of lifestyle as the key to the problem is a global imperative. What practically needs to be changed is the mentality of life that revolves around the logic of economics and consumption. We underline that a change can only begin within our understanding of economics. Economics has evolved from science that nurtures life to one that stifles it. In its original Greek sense oikonomia, economics expresses the dynamic relationship between the ecosystem and the human community. Experts have given two insightful nuances of oikos. One is that of a household in which God wants to give people access life, and the other is a household of creation in which God wants creatures to live together in a productive interdependent relationship.  The change of mentality implies a redefinition of our social values and building an economy that preserves the natural resources and enhances the quality of life following the original sense of economics.

At AEFJN, we acknowledge that more than any ethical prescriptions, that which will be most helpful in resolving our present ecological crisis must bother on personal responsibility and accountability. We reiterate our conviction that invitation to a change in life impinges directly on the values, character, lifestyle and actions of the individuals and institutions that they represent. It is a radical invitation to an ethical imperative. Of course, this comes with challenges even for the church.  For a Church that has been enmeshed in moral crises, extending such an invitation evokes moral ambivalence but the Church must continue to point out the right path even in her wounded state. Together with Pope Francis, the Church must hold up the banner that Laudato SI must not be reduced to a quibble about words. While the words spread, they must be matched by a mass revolution driven by a corresponding change in lifestyle.

[1] CIDSE= Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité

[2] COMECE= Association des Episcopats de l’Union Européenne

[3] CCEE= Conseil des Conférences  épiscopale d’Europe

[4] GCCM= Global Catholic Climate Movement

[5] JESC= Jesuit European Social Centre