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‘Encyclical title affirms all creatures have common creator,’ says head of Franciscan order

Franciscan Father Michael Perry (CNS)

Pope Francis has chosen a title for his encyclical on the environment that affirms all creatures have a common creator, according to the head of the Franciscan order.

The title, Laudato Si, is taken from a hymn by St Francis of Assisi that contains strong emphasis on harmony between God and the creatures of the world.

Fr Michael Perry sang Laudato Si and recited the English translation of St Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures while sat in the garden of the Franciscan headquarters in Rome.

He expects Pope Francis will promote an “integral ecology” through this encyclical which will be released on Thursday.

The Franciscan minister general said that St Francis of Assisi, over the course of his life, came to recognise that “God was present everywhere and in everything.”

Once a person recognises the “divine dignity” of every created being, Fr Perry said, he or she recognises a responsibility to “give glory to God by respecting and caring and promoting a sense of ‘being in this together,’ that life is one and each of us brings a special contribution.”

The hymn praises God and the reflection of God’s glory in “Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water”, and “our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”

While St Francis’s praise of Brother Sun and Sister Moon has been romanticised in many ways, Fr Perry said that the obligations it carries are very realistic and concrete.

Some of the obligations include defending human dignity, promoting dialogue and reconciliation to end war, safeguarding the earth and all living creatures and learning to live with just what one needs, not all that one wants.

Fr Perry told Catholic News Service that the canticle is also incomplete without St Francis’s praise of human beings “who give pardon”, bear infirmity and live in peace.

He said: “Nature is barking, nature is chasing after us, telling us we have got to wake up. It’s disturbing us; it is not disturbing in order to threaten our lives.

“It is telling us we are already a threat to ourselves. We’re a threat to the world. Nature is telling us, ‘Step back from the brink before it’s too late.”

In the work of St John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, he said, the Catholic Church presents a vision of “human ecology, social ecology and the natural ecology”, however focusing on just one, Fr Perry said, “can lead us to misrepresent what God wants”.

Fr Perry urged not just reading the encyclical but studying it with attention to what it is saying about the future of the planet, about Christian discipleship and about ways they can make a difference.