Ecology encyclical and “far away” Churches – Commentary, Hector Welgampola 

Ecology encyclical presents collegial wisdom of “far away” Churches

Hector Welgampola

Laudato Si cover

Full text here


Quite unsurprisingly, Laudato Si (Praise be to you), has taken the world by storm. Its content and ecclesial nuances have taken a definitive stand for the welfare of all forms of planetary life.  

As the most recent social encyclical, it is a groundbreaker, even though categorized with Rerum Novarum and other seminal documents of Catholic social doctrine. And those documents dealt mostly with issues that concerned the Western hemisphere. Like other encyclicals, they too were addressed to bishops and other Church leaders, although their salutations did often include a mention of “ to all men and women of good will.”  

As instruments of the Church’s teaching authority, they were grounded in the Scriptures and Tradition. An occasional mention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as in Saint John Paul’s Centesimus Annus was an exception. Dante’s Divine Comedy was quoted by the same pope in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater. Apart from following suit quoting Dante, Pope Francis’s Laudato Si also quotes Patriarch Bartholomew and Sufi mystic Ali Al Khawas as well. 

But there is much more to the new encyclical than its content and genre of documentation.While wading through traditional gateways of encyclicaling, Pope Francis new encyclical makes a subtle shift.While inviting all humanity to a dialogue about our shared home, the document engages the wider Church in a new dimension of ecclesial magisterium. That futuristic move once more reiterates the Holy Father’s prophetic streak as an innovator.   

As noted earlier, in response to varied needs and circumstances, encyclicals have grown as instruments of papal teaching. Especially in more recent times, they have tended to articulate the primacy of the Petrine office as supreme teaching authority.It is no surprise that Pope Francis, who prefers collegial consultation to authoritarian imposition, should see a need to broadbase the paradigm of encyclicaling. In a Spirit-led move, the innovative pope has reached out to the people of God worldwide for the wisdom of the “diaspora” Churches. And beyond doubt, the Spirit must hover over him. 

Especially, as a product of Puebla, Medellin and Aparecide, the Holy Father would fail Churches worldwide if this encyclical put a lid on his home Church’s passion for the environment. After all, how could that document ignore the pain of a continent raped and plundered by industrial conglomerates? Apart from reflecting the thinking of Aparecide, the document refers to statements by Bolivian, Brazilian, Dominican, Mexican, Paraguayan and Patagonian bishops.  

These and other agonies of oppressed peoples have been cited from Africa too. In particular, the pope had not forgotten the African outcry against corrupting foreign aid heard at the recent Synod. Asian voices from the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) and countries like Japan and the Philippines have been enhanced by echoes from Churches in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States. 

This encyclical will go down in Church history as a genuine effort to integrate voices and values of the worldwide Church. And as the Spirit discerns, may it help evolve a collegial magisterium that resonates the pastoral wisdom and catholicity animating God’s people at the grassroots worldwide. 

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.



Malaysia Airlines MH17 – more than a story of political strife

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese's Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Youth sitting in front of the altar in the candle-lit San Fernando de Dilao church, Paco where Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led the archdiocese’s Day of Lament and Hope prayer service for victims and survivors of recent calamities in the Philippines. By NJ Viehland

Social media offer the public a peek into the hearts and minds of people who were on the doomed Malaysian airlines flight that crashed in East Ukraine  on Thursday reportedly killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Airlines released the full flight manifest Saturday of the persons on board the flight MH17 that was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and urged family members and friends to contact the airline.

View MH17 flight manifest here

Passenger Ariza Ghazalee posted on Facebook  a picture of 15 pieces of luggage on a sidewalk about to be loaded into a car that would take her family to Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands for the flight to Malaysia and a new life, a July 18 post on the Wallstreet Journal blog reports.

The blog describes photos, the story of the Ghazalees’ European vacation, plans to migrate from Kazakhstan to Malaysia, and even reports a Taylor University’s (Malaysia) confirmation that her son was on the flight that was believed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile.

Read the WSJ full blog here

Their plane that reportedly left Amsterdam at 12.15 pm, local time was believed to have been shot down by the missile causing it to crash into grasslands and flower fields in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia rebels.

As authorities investigate the alleged attack, relatives and friends of passengers anxiously await information on their loved ones.

Filipino fatality Irene Pabillon Gunawan was reportedly traveling with her husband, Hadiono, and their two children to join a family reunion in Quezon Province, northern Philippines. Her family is reportedly waiting anxiously for instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the remains of their  loved ones.

Relatives in the Philippines have spoken with Rappler social news network about their grief and sense of loss in the death of a loving, generous and caring person.

A text message that came in to her sister-in-law’s cell phone had Irene signing off as passengers were boarding the plane. “Be careful always that the trees won’t fall on you…” she added in her text message in Tagalog language.

Parts of the Philippines was suffering from the effects of typhoon Glenda (International Name Rammasun) then. 

Irene who had spent around 30 years in the Netherlands with her Indonesian husband who worked for Malaysian Airlines was reportedly sending siblings and a nephew through school. Kim, the nephew, recalls one of Irene’s Facebook posts in which she comments on relatives plans for a night of drinking and videoke. She reportedly asked them to wait for her so they can have a videoke concert and go drinking.

Reading WSJ and Rappler’s full story on MH17 passenger Irene Pabillon Gunawan and family pinches the heart, and reminds one that MH17 is not just a story of geopolitics , but is more so a story of persons, many of whom are ordinary, non-politicized people who are unfamiliar with issues and conflicts outside their own context. 

Sadly, missiles and weapons of war in this age strike down more than just their physical targets. They shatter countless lives, hopes and future of innocent people and their families across the globe, far away from the center of the conflict.

To join “Prayers Are Awesome’s” Facebook prayer for MH17 Ukraine victims, click prayer sharing