On Care for Our Common Home
Melville House Publishers, Brooklyn & London,
July 2015. 165 pages, with notes. $14.95.
Reviewed by Eric Mills, founder & coordinator, Action for Animals
The British newspaper The Guardian called Pope Francis’ Enclycical on Climate Change & Inequality “The most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years.” Certainly it may have the most to say about the human relationship toward animals.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936, to Italian immigrant parents in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church––and the first non-European leader of the church in 1,200 years. He chose to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, and a champion of the poor and dispossessed––a major boon to our movement.
Pope Francis has often mistakenly been given credit for saying that dogs and cats go to Heaven. In truth, that observation came from his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, who once told a little boy grieving the loss of his pet that, “One day we will again see our animals in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” But this should not have been surprising, since the word “animal” comes from the Latin word “anima,” meaning “soul.” And I am betting that Pope Francis would agree.
In his very first homily after being ordained, Francis spoke of “our duties to Nature and God’s creation.” That certainly bodes well for the many problems our beleaguered planet now faces.
Pope Francis is scheduled to address a session of the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015. (Watch the news!) In his brief tenure, I believe Pope Francis has done more for animals and the planet than all of our politicians combined. (But his approach still needs a little work on family planning, perhaps.) May his tribe increase.
Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality is highly readable and rife with worthwhile quotes regarding our attitudes toward animals, the environment, the disenfranchised and our endangered planet. A few examples:
“It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty toward any creature is contrary to human dignity.”
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
“Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.”
“It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture.”
“Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”
“The Biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object. Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society.”
“All it takes is one good person to restore hope!”
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SUGGESTION: Purchase multiple copies of this book and give one to those most in need.
AND THIS: We should all be writing to Pope Francis at the Vatican, thanking him for his work, and requesting edicts on various animal protection issues. Just imagine the consternation in Latin America and Spain if The Pope were to issue an edict condemning the cruelty of bullfights, rodeos and charreadas!
His Holiness Pope Francis Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
(1st Class Postage – $1.05)