Pope Francis and Integral Ecology

Pope Francis Patrick #2

The encyclical, Laudato Si, is turning out to be Pope Francis’ calling card. He has addressed it several times already in his remarks in Ecuador and Bolivia, most recently this morning in his address to the civil authorities of Bolivia.   Likening gratitude and responsibility to the grandeur of mountain glaciers, the pope bid the leaders of Bolivia to be mindful of the interrelation of every human being to nature, society, politics, and economics. Note in the following excerpt Francis’ expression for this connectedness – integral ecology.

“On the way to this Cathedral [Our Lady of Peace] I was able to admire the peaks of Hayna Potosi, the ‘young mountain’, and Illimani, the mountain which shows ‘the place where the sun rises’. I also saw the ingenious way in which many houses and neighbourhoods blend with the hillsides, and was struck by the architecture of some of these structures. The natural environment is closely related to social, political and economic environment. It is urgent for all of us to lay the foundations of an integral ecology, one capable of respecting all these human dimensions in resolving the grave social and environmental issues of our time. Otherwise, the glaciers of those mountains will continue to recede, and our sense of gratitude and responsibility with regard to these gifts, our concern for the world we want to leave to future generations, for its meaning and values, will melt just like those glaciers.”

Integral ecology is an expression that has been around for a while, but now has taken on new meaning in the papal encyclical, which devotes an entire chapter to the idea. The term denotes the care for creation understood in its widest sense, involving nature and individual and communal humanity together. The best way to grasp the meaning of the expression in the context of papal encyclical is by reading the document itself. Commentaries, though, have begun to appear. The following link has some helpful information on the currency of the term at the Vatican on the eve of the encyclical.


A nice visual way of getting the sense of integral ecology is a “wordle” view of Laudato si. Life, God, human, world, environment, and nature vie with the word “also” which reminds us of the interrelation of all the realities behind the terms.

 Laudato si wordle

Papal portrait by Brother Patrick Martin, F.S.C.

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