All Must Share in the “Care of Our Common Home,” Key Papal Adviser Says

November 3, 2015 —

On Monday November 2, members of the Georgetown community gathered at the Law Center to discuss protecting the planet and the poor as described in Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, released earlier this year.

John Carr,  director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, led the discussion with Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez, a key adviser to Pope Francis who chairs the Council of Cardinals. Georgetown Law Professor Edith Brown Weiss and Distinguished Visitor from Practice John Podesta (L’76), former counselor to President Obama on climate change and energy policy, were on hand to offer their insights.

“This encyclical was not [just] taken out of the sleeves of the Holy Father,” said Rodríguez, explaining that the Pope’s decision to write a document on the environment came from deep consideration of the damage being done to the planet as well as the need to enter into a dialogue with all people. “[It is] not only an ecological problem; it is the care of our common home. ...  We have to give maintenance to our homes … and we need to take care and think about the maintenance of our common home, which is our Mother Earth.”

As Carr noted, the problem is not just about climate change but about injustice, as the poorest people who contribute the least to climate change will suffer the most. The encyclical, however, “opens the door to hope,” Rodríguez said.

Brown Weiss, an expert in international environmental law, noted three critical aspects of the encyclical: the earth as a “global commons,” the consideration of the poor, and preserving the earth for future generations. “Pope Francis, through the encyclical, has proposed the most fundamental change … the change in the human heart,” she said. “He has put the issue as a moral one.” 

 Podesta (L’76) noted that climate change is one of the most complex and urgent challenges facing our planet, yet he too was optimistic as he looked ahead to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Paris on November 30.

“[W]e have to look to build an agreement that is worthy of this encyclical …” he said. “I hope that the negotiators will indeed look to the teachings of Pope Francis and remember the billions of people around the world who are looking to them to work in the spirit of collaboration …  to shape the world that we want.”  

The event was co-sponsored by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, the Georgetown Climate Center, the Global Futures Initiative, and Georgetown Law’s Environmental Law Program.

To view the webcast, click here.

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