VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, has expressed his hope that Pope Francis’ recent environmental encyclical will have a strong impact on the United Nations’ three major gatherings this year.
The cardinal spoke to CNA July 2, saying he hopes the effect of the encyclical on the U.N. meetings “will be especially concrete in climate-change impact.”
“We have discussed a lot about the problem of climate change; now, it is time to act. I think this is exactly what the Pope is requesting from us: to act and to start to change our lifestyles to preserve our common house, which is the Earth.”
The cardinal answered reporters’ questions before addressing a Vatican conference, titled “People and Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course.”
Taking place in Rome July 2-3, the summit was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which prepared a first draft of Francis’ encyclical, alongside the Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies working together for global justice.
The goal of the conference is to use the encyclical Laudato Si (The Care for Our Common Home) to influence several major political gatherings set to happen this year, including key U.N. conferences.
Among them are the July 13-16 Addis Ababa meeting on finance and development, the U.N. general assembly meeting to approve sustainable development goals in September and December’s COP 21 meeting in Paris seeking a global agreement on addressing climate change.
Cardinal Parolin spoke on the importance of Laudato Si for the Church and the world, specifically in light of 2015’s major political events, but also the impact it will have on the future.
He said that while the encyclical will certainly have an effect on this year’s events, “its breadth and depth go well beyond its context in time.”
The environment, the Earth and the climate “are a common and collective good,” which belong to the whole of humanity, and as such are “the responsibility of everyone,” the cardinal observed.
He said both the technological and operative basis for promoting more human and integral progress are “already available or within our reach and the international community must seize this great opportunity” to move forward with development.
At the heart of this progress are the key objectives of allowing human dignity to flourish, helping to eradicate poverty and countering environmental decay, the cardinal continued.
He then turned to the national and local sphere of the climate discussion, saying that, frequently, there are “too many special interests, and economic interests [too] easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information, so that their own plans will not be affected.”
Awareness among organizations must be increased, he said, explaining that this is where the Church’s social doctrine comes in as a point of reference on both the dignity of the human person and the promotion of the common good.
The cardinal then reiterated what Pope Francis said in his encyclical about the role of the Church in the discussion, saying she “does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” but brings awareness of the need to “question the meaning and purpose of all human activity.”
He said that when we think of what kind of world we want to leave behind, it’s no longer enough to simply express concern for future generations, but there is also a need to see “that what is at stake is our own dignity.”
Our responsibility is to be “responsible for the responsibility of the other,” the cardinal stated, adding that our human vocation to be protectors of the Earth and the environment “is not something optional.”
In his comments to CNA, Cardinal Parolin also spoke about the Pope’s objectives for his July 5-13 trip to the South-American nations of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
“As in all trips, the Pope goes to meet the Catholic community. This is his ministry as pastor of the universal Church, inserting himself inside the pastoral and catechetical paths that each [local] Church is pursuing,” he said.
The cardinal also addressed the concern of those who say the Pope will use the trip to dip into local politics, such as the debate surrounding Bolivia’s access to the sea.
Distinguishing between “party goals” and “political goals,” Cardinal Parolin said that, for Pope Francis, political interests in his trips are understood in the sense of “the construction of the social and political community.”
“On the part of Christians, there is truly an action and contribution to help solve problems that they find in that regard,” he said, explaining that the Pope isn’t going to support any specific person, but rather to promote peace, reconciliation and material and spiritual development.