Updated: Aug 24
Pope Francis disclosed today that he’s working on a “second part” of Laudato Sì, his groundbreaking 2015 encyclical on protecting the environment. The announcement came in a brief talk to European legal experts.
"I am deeply appreciative of the care that you show for the earth, our common home, and for your willingness to work for the development of a normative framework aimed at protecting the environment. It must never be forgotten that future generations are entitled to receive from our hands a beautiful and habitable world, and that this entails grave responsibilities towards the natural world that we have received from the benevolent hands of God. Thank you for your contribution in this regard. I am currently writing a second part to Laudato Si’ in order to address present problems."
The pope offered no details about content or timing of the new document. But it’s easy to assume that among “present problems,” the pope would include global heat waves, flooding, wildfires and smoke pollution, as well as the effects of a deadly land war in Europe.
An “update” to an encyclical that’s only eight years old marks a departure from the typical glacial pace of papal teaching. Clearly, Pope Francis follows the news and wants the church to be part of the discussion when it comes to policy changes.
I wouldn’t expect new arguments from the pope. I think he probably wants to suggest ways in which Laudato Sì can be applied to real-world situations. His interest in what he termed a “normative framework” on the environment may offer a clue to his intentions. The policy framework being developed by the European Union establishes targets for greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy and infrastructure efficiency, among other things.
The pope’s announcement caught Vatican observers by surprise. There’s a tendency to view this fall’s consistory and Synod of Bishops as a winding down of his pontificate, but it seems there is more on the pope’s agenda.