From COP21 in Paris to COP22 in Marrakech, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ does not cease to inspire international entities more than a year after its publication, says Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in reference to the United Nations Climate Change Conferences of this year and last.
ZENIT met with the Cardinal in Paris on the occasion of a colloquium organized Nov. 9 at the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) by the Holy See Mission and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the theme: “The Earth Our Common Home: Challenges and Hope!”
Cardinal Turkson said the message of Laudato Si’ traces a path: “In face of the threat of an environmental disaster on a worldwide scale, I am convinced that a ray of light has already begun to break the heavy clouds of the ecology and to bring us what the Pope describes as the warmth of hope!” The Cardinal hopes that the “wisdom” of Laudato Si’ will be understood.
During his intervention at Paris, he made evident the “key concept of integral ecology,” whose evolution he analyzed in the social teaching of the Church. In fact, Laudto Si’, an “ecological” encyclical in the human and integral sense, is a social encyclical.
Cardinal Turkson, 68, from Ghana, is former Archbishop of Cape Coast, a biblicist by formation. Here’s a translation of our conversation with him, which we will publish in two parts:
ZENIT: Eminence, you are president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and have been appointed prefect of the new dicastery at the “Service of Integral Human Development.” What does this title mean?
Cardinal Turkson: As you know, it’s the bringing together of four dicasteries created at the end of Vatican II, when the Church became aware that she must accompany humanity on its journey in history. The Church felt the great need to give concrete signs of this accompaniment by establishing Councils: the Council for Culture, the Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Council for Christian Unity. Concretely, for society, a Council for Health was created, for Migrations, for Humanitarian Situations that call for the maternal presence of the Church and, finally, the Council for Justice and Peace. The reform established by Pope Francis now brings together these four dicasteries, which are concerned concretely with social situations. Hence the name “Congregation at the Service of Integral Human Development” indicates first of all a novelty. This new entity is not a “conglomeration,” it is not a bringing together of these four dicasteries, to enable them to continue working as four dicasteries but linked by some reason. It’s about becoming aware of the great need to make these four dicasteries act and function together.
The name “Congregation at the Service of Integral Human Development” manifests an awareness of the great fundamental concern of these four dicasteries. There are also the questions of social justice that the <Council> for Justice and Peace has always pursued, as well as political, economic and financial questions, the trafficking of persons, but also the questions of migrations.
Now, if one affirms that human history has always had displacements of persons, this time we are witnessing migrations in the four corners of the world. There are the migrations of South America to the United States, of Asia to Australia, the migrations of persons of Syria, of Iraq, of Afghanistan to Europe, but there are also the migrations of Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. Of these four movements, only those of Syria and Iraq are motivated by a question of security. The others are motivated, so to speak, by economic reasons, by an imbalance in development.
This is the reason why this Congregation is going to try to answer all these humanitarian questions, but placed together, so that the links between these four dicasteries are made evident. What do migrations cause? Health consequences, etc.
ZENIT: There are “ecological” migrations …
Cardinal Turkson: Certainly, because of the fact of a lack of rain, of the El Nino phenomenon, which results in populations being unable to feed themselves from products of the earth, so, because of climate changes, the rainy season is lacking, etc.
ZENIT: Does not the title of UNESCO’s colloquium, as well as the sub-title of the encyclical “Laudato Si’” indicate in any case a challenge by proposing the concept “common home” at a time of temptation to withdrawal into oneself?
Cardinal Turkson: At the origin of human history, at least according to the Bible, the earth was created as a garden destined to be humanity’s home, and the task of the human being is to work it but also to protect it: both together. The earth must be worked to feed oneself, for its products, but at the same time it is necessary to protect it in as much as it is a garden. If one protects a garden, it means that one takes care of that garden, to maintain its beauty, its order. In this sense, the title of the encyclical “on the safeguarding of our common home” recalls this first experience of the human being. This means that the experience we now have sometimes denies the first experience, which should be the common experience. The encyclical does no more than to recall this experience of humanity at the origin of human life and history.
In this relation between man and the environment there are, in fact, challenges. Challenges that come from the fact that one has an experience of humanity after the fall, which introduced a sort of disorder in humanity’s history, a disorder that manifests itself sometimes in a lack of balance: instead of protecting the garden, the garden is exploited; instead of working the earth, one exhausts it. So there is this imbalance. The way of treating the earth can be considered an abuse. The earth, the world is no longer a “cosmo-logy,” a “cosmos,” which indicates an order that leads to beauty: one discovers the word again in the “cosmetics” that ladies use. So there is the temptation today to mistreat the earth, to exploit it. It’s a “challenge,” but there is also “hope,” because in the history of humanity, even if there is the experience of the fall, there is also the experience of the promise made by God, source of hope for the whole of humanity.
The Holy Father holds these two things together. At the beginning of his encyclical, in paragraphs 12-13, he mentioned this challenge. However, he maintains that he always has great confidence in the human capacity to act together to find solutions to all the challenges, to all the situations with which we are confronted. In this sense, these challenges are considered as all that threatens the first order that must exist between us, and between us and between the environment, the cosmos and Creation. But there is also the hope: for us Christians, one begins always from the presence of grace. For others, one begins always from the “tendency” to act together in view of our common concerns.
For instance, the issue of the encyclical coincided with the summit of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on the way to find the means to finance the control of the earth’s warming, and one saw also at Paris that the countries wanted to find a solution.[Part 2 will be published on Wednesday]