Earth Charter and Laudato Si’ book launch at Integral Ecology Symposium

Laudato Si Earth CharterEarth Charter International is pleased to share its latest publication, the book: ¨Voices of the Earth Charter Initiative responding to Laudato Si’ ¨

Find this publication in this link.

This publication aims to identify linkages and contribute to the understanding between the Encyclical Laudato Si’ and the Earth Charter, given that the content and purpose of both are very similar. To achieve this, we have compiled a series of articles written by renowned writers and global leaders, reflecting and deepening on the nexus and meaning of the ethical proposals of these two documents and the challenges they launch.

Authors: Leonardo Boff, Fritjof Capra, Joe Holland, Elizabeth May, José Matarrita, Awraham Soetendorp, Steven C. Rockefeller, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim.

The ¨International Symposium on Ecology Laudato Si’, Care of the Common House: a necessary conversion to Human Ecology¨; which took place in Costa Rica from November 29 to December 1 of 2017, was an important motivator to create this publication.  This Symposium has been one of the most important international, academic, and ecological events of the year organized by the Vatican (Ratzinger Foundation). The Catholic University of Costa Rica organized the event, with the support of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which holds this event annually.

The publication was shared in digital form with more than 600 participants of this Symposium. In addition, it was presented at one of the working sessions that took place on Friday, December 1; which was coordinated by Mrs. Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of the Earth Charter International.

Here are some highlights of the Laudato Si’ Symposium on Ecology:

The Symposium began with formal speeches, where the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, was present. Then, eight presentations with leading speakers continued (See here the Symposium Agenda).


Pope Francis sent a message to the Symposium. Click here to find it.

Here are excerpts from some of the presentations:

-Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Bishops Congregation, President of the Latin American Pontifical Commission:

¨Why did Pope Francis write the “Laudato Si’ encyclical letter”? Cardinal Ouellet addressed this question in his presentation, saying that the Pope has assumed the urgency of the environmental and sustainability problems of our “common home” and calls for a dialogue with everyone on this issue. This encyclical does not make an appeal to the Catholic Church on a subject, but a call for everyone to participate in an interreligious dialogue that seeks solutions to the existing challenges; this method, according to Cardinal Ouellet, is unheard of for a Pope. The Pope took advantage of the political momentum in 2015, with the launch of the 2030 Agenda and the Climate Summit in Paris, to intensify his call.

20171130_101435In regards to the content of the encyclical, Cardinal Ouellet stated that it makes an assessment of the current situation, not exhaustively, but based on available scientific evidence. The Pope reflects on the current progress, which he mentions is a myth, and that it is worrying that there is an accelerated increase in the development and use of technologies without an ethical reflection on its purposes; which makes it difficult for people to make ethical decisions about these.

Another point to highlight is the clarification of the relationship of reciprocity, and not domination, that human beings should have with nature. The Pope expresses this in paragraphs 67 to 75. He invites us to look at creation in a way that encourages compassion and communion with everyone; and at the same time, it is Christological.

In paragraph 160, Pope Francis warns that what is at stake is our own dignity and survival, promoting in that sense an ecological conversion that aims for a new way of life, a cultural revolution to overcome individualism, promote human solidarity, and universal community with all living creatures. The Cardinal mentioned that the spiritual dimension of this ecological conversion implies rejoicing with little, sobriety, the search for fraternal encounters, and contact with nature (LS 223).

20171201_152910An audacity of Pope Francis, according to Cardinal Ouellet, is to make explicit the connection between the Trinity and creation. Each person acts in communion with the others and in function of the creation, and then the creation is a gift implied in the exchange of the three persons, who give mutual glorification with the creation.

He mentioned as well that the ultimate realization of the human person is to leave behind individualism to connect with others, seeing themselves as servants and guardians of the common home.

-Dr. Tomás Insua, Executive Director of Global Catholic Climate Movement

He invited the audience to get involved in actions that lead to the ecological conversion mentioned by Pope Francis. He recommended the platform: http://vivelaudatosi.org/ and the Mission 2020 initiative, launched by Christiana Figueres.

He emphasized the time from 1 September to 4 October, called “Time for creation”, as a period set to intensify the awareness of Laudato Si’ message.

– Mons. Fernando Chica Arellano. Permanent Observer of the Holy See before the FAO, IFAD, and WFP.

He reflected on the results of the State of 20171201_090738Food Security 2017 FAO Report, where they asked: why does hunger in the world increases? They identified three major causes:

  • War conflicts (both domestic and international)
  • Climate change effects
  • Social gaps

The Encyclical Laudato Si’, which he considers to be the Ecological Sum of the Catholic Church, is like a compass to guide us in addressing the challenges that are generating famine in the world.

Mgr. Chica mentioned that there are three key words in the Encyclical:

  1. Everyone: it invites everybody to participate, because we are all implicated. The text of the encyclical, which makes this invitation, is like “fine wine”; it does not accumulate years but youth and liveliness.
  2. Urgent: the Encyclical stresses that we do not have time, we must act now; it is the urgency of love, social love at the center of the community of life.
  3. Together: It highlights that we need to work collaboratively, to generate synergies, convergences. Chapter V of the encyclical talks about this (Dialogue).

He invited us to get to work, having a service attitude, nourishing ourselves with what Jesus did in the cross.

Rev. Augusto Zampini. Member of the CAFOD and Theological advisor of the new Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service of the Holy See.

One of the great challenges that we live, according to Rev. Zampini, is to achieve an inclusive development that incorporates all human dimensions. This vision is included in the concept of integral ecology, which Pope Francis presents and which is based on a relational paradigm, recognizing us as social beings, in relation with other beings and with God.

20171201_104432In terms of the ecological conversion, necessary for an inclusive development, there are important changes to be made in the human heart and on social and political structures. Changing a daily habit requires a great motivation which comes from the deep, that “deep” is spirituality. When we feel saturated, we feel unplugged, but through an integral spirituality it is possible to focus, live in peace, and this liberation helps to move to action. Rev. Zampini recommended reading  the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and the document of Aparecida – V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM).

What contributions could Christian spirituality offer? One aspect is to not put human beings at the center of creation, because this is associated with the paradigm of control. Rather, we must return to the bases towards an eco-centrism, towards the ethics of care, using iconic visions (symbols), which leads us to a contemplation and celebration that brings us closer to nature. Church rituals can serve to reaffirm the common good and our interconnection, because they imply a shared experience of time, where humans discover themselves in a profound way and in relation to others. In addition, these rituals link the human with the sky and the earth. It would be important for all parishes to refresh the notion that the bread of life is converted from the fruits of the earth and the work of “men”, so it is important to take care of the fruits of earth and the work of “men”.

Although he did not explicitly refer to the Earth Charter, he mentioned that Christian spirituality promotes the notion that people should seek to be more and not have more. Also, this spirituality seeks sobriety, which helps us to move away from utilitarianism.

The last two presentations on 30 November focused on instruments for measuring or evaluating social progress and sustainability. Mr. Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, presented the report on Social Progress by countries for 2017: https://www.socialprogressindex.com/

Mr. Roberto Artavia Loría presented an evaluation tool to measure the implementation of the Encyclical Laudato Sí in countries, which will be used by the new Laudato Si’ Observatory, promoted and coordinated by the Catholic University of Costa Rica.

-F. Federico Lombardi, S.J. President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation.

IMG_2044On the 2nd day of the Symposion, F. Lombardi spoke on behalf of Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, who was unable to attend the Symposium, on the topic of integral ecology in the center of Catholic education. He mentioned the importance of renewing the heart to achieve change. He stressed that the pedagogy of Jesus must be at the center of Catholic education, following the image of the servant, of humility, and reconciliation. Jesus was in close contact with nature, with his environment, and the daily life of the people, for this reason, he found parables close to the context of the people to diffuse his message.

The notion of interdependence with everything is what God asks, and this notion should be present in the integral education programmes related to the Encyclical Laudato Si’; whose approach should generate a resistance to the advancement of the technocratic paradigm. He affirmed the need for a new education that leads to a regeneration and dialogue to care for nature and help the poor.

He urged that the entire Christian community get involved in this education, specifically in schools, where young people are enabled to achieve an integral awareness and the practice of charity. In institutions of Higher Education, transmitting information is not enough, but the approach to the truth through an interdisciplinary dialogue, and where the potential of nature as educator is highlighted. He called for Catholic Universities to include the ethical dimension in their study programmes, using the Encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as studying the issues and current situation in their own contexts, providing an ethical guide.

-Prof. Pe. Josafá Carlos de Siqueira, S.J.: Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

He invited the universities to seek interdisciplinary work with a systemic vision, trying to generate a dialogue of knowledge in the light of Laudato Si’. He mentioned the importance of breaking with the anthropocentric vision, and encouraging small initiatives that help to put into practice interdisciplinarity with a vision of being guardians and caregivers of the common home. He invited everyone to seek to see us as “modest gardeners”.

Mr. Josafá presented on the specific case of the Institutional Environmental Agenda of the PUC of Rio de Janeiro, where a large number of actions are implemented in relation to the environmental management of the institution, and where they have also organized an interdisciplinary nucleus of environment, which coordinates interdisciplinary research efforts.


After the presentations, participants were divided in six Working Group sessions, which addressed different issues and questions.

The groups had a short central presentation offered by an expert on different topics, and then worked on generating inputs for several guiding questions and recommendations for the Laudato Si’ Observatory. The working groups addressed the following topics:

1) The intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet: satisfaction of basic needs and the culture of discarding.

2) The conviction that in the world everything is connected: the environmental balance and social mobility.

3) Criticism of the new paradigm and the forms of power that derive from technology: impact of environmental management for human beings and for our common home.

4) The invitation to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, and the serious responsibility of the international and local politics.

5) The proper value of each creature and the human sense of ecology: exercise of rights and freedom.

20171201_152943Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of Earth Charter International, contributed to Group 4, with a presentation in which she linked the international policies of the United Nations with other similar or related initiatives to Laudato Si’ as the Earth Charter ; and invited the Catholic community to build bridges between the Laudato Si’ and other efforts. In the dialogue, she stressed the importance of education in ethical values, and to ensure a better and more effective articulation and application of policies and laws.

The work and inputs of these groups were presented in plenary, and the Conference ended with a presentation by Mr. René Castro, Assistant Director of FAO, in which he shared the urgency of addressing climate change using examples of reforestation efforts and soil recovery. He indicated that his greatest learning, by participating in this conference, was to visualize the importance of spirituality to address the great challenges of humanity. Mr. Fernando Felipe Sánchez, Rector of the Catholic University of Costa Rica and Father Federico Lombardi offered the closing words, recognizing the transcendence of this event and the importance for the Catholic community (including educational entities) of continuing to work collaboratively for the conversion to integral ecology as articulated in the encyclical Laudato Si’.

Written by: Alicia Jimenez, Director of Programmes of EC Center for ESD.