Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor

The Pope’s encyclical on creation care is making a lot of people cry. 

And not just tears of frustration and denial from his detractors, those who reject climate science or want their religious leaders tame and nice.*

No, people are also crying Psalm-like tears of lament, “Yes, Francis, we can’t breathe, the sea rises, our enemies surround us.  We cry with you.  Yes, environmental destruction is a sin.  How long?”

And people are weeping tears of joy and relief, “Hallelujah, Francis, after so much silence from the church, you have heard the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor.”

Leonardo Boff, Franciscan and Brazilian liberation theologian, hounded and silenced by previous popes, and like Francis, a child of Italian immigrants to South America, now hears his Pope use the same phrase as his own book on ecological liberation theology, “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor.”  You are crying and your tears are heard.

Catholic Bishops in the Philippines read in the encyclical their very own words from a tearful lament they wrote 25 years ago.  “How can fish swim in running sewers like the Pasig (Manila’s river) and so many more rivers we have polluted?  Who has turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life? Imagine! Only 5% of our corals are in their pristine state!”  Francis heard and quoted you and your cries.

Filipino religious brother Jaazael Jakosalem turned his tears into creativity, painting this new icon of Jesus and Francis.  He explained, “Besides the Son of the Creator, the icon also has the Poor Man of Assisi at the lower center in a way that calls attention to the message of his canticle where he refers to the sun as brother, to the moon as his sister, and to the earth – symbolized by the plant - as his mother.”

That’s a reference to the encyclical’s opening cry; “Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”

Boff wrote a good response to the encyclical on his blog.  He says Francis writes in the Latin American liberation theology rubric:  “see, judge, act, celebrate.”  Boff appreciates that after powerful truthtelling, the Pope concludes the letter with celebrative hope, writing on the last page, “Let us sing as we go.  May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

Nor our tears.

*In my earlier published version of this line I indulged in some mean-spirited caricatures of the Pope's detractors.  I apologize.

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