Pope Francis’ encyclical (released in June 2015) draws from a deep well of Catholic social teaching. St. John Paul II spoke about human-caused climate change in 1990, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about climate change and sustainability many times. In 2001 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops synthesized teaching on the issue and issued a full statement on climate change, as well as a wealth of complementary resources. Even before that, U.S. bishops wrote about the threat of climate change in their 1981 statement on energy.
The encyclical builds on what has come before. What is most significant, however, is that this is the first time top-level papal teaching has been exclusively devoted to ecology. An encyclical is one of the highest levels of papal guidance to the Church and to people of goodwill more broadly. Francis is fulfilling his role as a pastor to teach Catholics about this opportunity to care for Creation and for our vulnerable sisters and brothers.
The encyclical is a teaching document. Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, is written in a very accessible style. It does not read like an academic tome as did encyclicals of the past. Anyone who can read a newspaper can read this encyclical and get something out of it. Given that education is a fundamental, long and rich IHM tradition, we will use this page as a place to share resources to help others in ongoing prayerful study, reflection and deeper engagement with the encyclical.