Vatican confirms title of environmental encyclical: Laudato Si'

This story appears in the Francis: The Environment Encyclical feature series. View the full series.

by Joshua J. McElwee

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The Vatican on Wednesday quietly confirmed the title of Pope Francis’ hotly anticipated upcoming encyclical letter on environmental issues while releasing details of a press conference to be held before its release June 18.

The encyclical, as NCR first reported May 30, will be titled “Laudato Si’, on the care of our common home.”

Translated in English either as "Be Praised" or "Praised Be," the title is a quotation from a popular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi praising God for the creation of the different creatures and aspects of the Earth.

Hinting at the direction the encyclical might take towards the issue of climate change, the Vatican announced that the June 18 press conference will see remarks from three individuals, including the director of an international institute addressing the impacts of climate change.

Among those taking part at the conference announcing the letter: Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Orthodox Christian Metropolitan John of Pergamon, a noted theologian; and John Schnellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The Vatican said the encyclical would be made available to the public at noon June 18.

The phrase "Laudato Si’" reoccurs several times in St. Francis' Canticle of the Sun, a prayer that praises God first by thanking God for such creations as "Brother Fire" and "Sister Water."

Written around the year 1224, the prayer is also recognized as one of the first published works of literature in the Umbrian dialect of the then-developing Italian language as opposed to Latin.

"Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun," St. Francis wrote in the third stanza of the prayer. He then continued, expressing praise to God for "Sister Moon," "Brothers Wind and Air," "Sister Water," "Brother Fire, and "Mother Earth."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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A version of this story appeared in the June 19-July 2, 2015 print issue under the headline: Ecology encyclical gets name, release date.

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