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

Ecology encyclical presents collegial wisdom of “far away” Churches

Hector Welgampola

Laudato Si cover

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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.



Pope Francis thanks Filipina actress



Rita Avila YouTube

Rita Avila, actress

MANILA, Dec. 11, 2014 – Pope Francis, through a high-ranking Vatican official, thanked Rita Avila, a local actress and book author, for recently sending him personal copies of her two books, CBCPNews reported.

What are the books about, why is this actress writing books, and what did Pope Francis tell Rita?

Read full report

Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka confirmed – Colombo archdiocese

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, at the meeting of clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo on Monday 27th October 2014 at the Archbishop’s House, confirmed Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka on Jan. 13 and 14, 2015, the archdiocese reported on its website.

A delegation from the Vatican is reportedly expected to arrive in Sri Lanka to work out the program me for the Pope’s visit.

Read Colombo archdiocese’s full report

Questions about the pope’s announced visit arose in recent weeks after news broke of possible elections in the country in January. 

In a letter to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Cardinal Ranjith reportedly asking the president to inform the church about the date of election and informed the nation’s leader that it was not appropriate for the Pope to visit any country at times of national elections.

Sri Lanka government reportedly confirmed Oct. 26 that the government is taking necessary steps, including necessary infrastructure arrangements, as planned, to facilitate the arrival of Pope Francis.



A new Silk Route to world peace and beyond? – 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.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka

China’s President Xi Jin Ping has just wrapped up a South Asian tour targeting a new Maritime Silk Route. And a papal letter reportedly invites him to retread Marco Polo’s original Silk Route, this time East to West.

A papal invitation

The news of Pope Francis inviting President Xi to visit the Vatican was reported by well-informed Rome journalist Gerard O’Connell. According to O’Connell, whose Argentine-born wife Elisabetta Pique has just published the recentmost papal biography, Pope Francis has sent the invitation through an Argentinian emissary.

The papal letter, reportedly, offers to meet with the Chinese president even in Beijing. It is a sequel to Pope Francis’ earlier-expressed readiness to “visit China tomorrow.” The unprecedented papal initiative independent of the Curia is reminiscent of Saint John XXIII’s innovative moves to build contact with then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Those prophetic moves can have subtle lessons for today as well.

Pope John XXIII and Khrushchev

Pope John was the only recent pope with wide diplomatic experience in Eastern Europe and Western Europe. He also had pastoral wisdom to act decisively and discreetly amid curial dithering. Then curial heavyweights like Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani said contact with the USSR would weaken the faith of Eastern bloc Catholics and give wrong signals to Western nations. 

Despite such curial misgivings, the pope welcomed Khrushchev’s daughter Rada and her husband Adzhuberi to the Vatican. The visitors conveyed warm greetings from the Soviet leader and his appreciation for the pope’s work for world peace. But when Adzhuberi proposed diplomatic relations between the Holy See and USSR, the pope was slow to respond. He used a metaphor, “God did not create the world in just one day!”

Diplomatic relations?

The onetime diplomat intimated his rustic Roncalli bias for people’s pastoral welfare over diplomatic links. “The Vatican has two hands, and we want to shake the two hands of the USSR, that of the State and that of all the members of the Russian Church,” he said.

Pope John’s gutsy pastoral foresight has much wisdom for today, especially for those who consider diplomatic links more important than China Catholics’ welfare.

His informal invitation, “I hope that if Mr Khrushchev visits Rome, both of us will find time for a meeting,” never worked out. Nonetheless, the two genial giants had taken the first steps toward the thaw. It was bigger than man’s first steps on the moon. History was in the making, and the world would never be the same again.

Patriotic Associations

The breakthrough following that thaw helped ease Church-State tensions in the USSR. Already, there had been token actions like the freeing of Ukranian Archbishop Josyf Slipyj from detention. Over time, other similar moves followed within the Soviet bloc.

Improved Church-State relations weakened patriotic Catholic associations such as Hungary’s Opus Pax, and Czechoslovakia’s Pacem in Terris. When Yugoslavia’s Church-State dialogue grew, groups like Cyril Methodius Society lost their grip over religious affairs.

Confucian insights

What started with Khrushchev greetings for Pope John’s 80th birthday launched a momentum in Eastern Europe. Its worldwide impact endures still even though the two leaders never met. Will Pope Francis’ letter to President Xi open another historic chapter in world history?

The leader of China’s 1.3 billion people may need time and space to reflect on and respond to the humble gesture by the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. Whatever may be its outcome, the papal letter was a Jesus moment like Matteo Ricci’s overtures to Confucian culture. Once more, history is in via, with an invitation to leaven world peace with Confucian insights. The Lord of history knows that its ultimate end result lies beyond the control of either pope or president.


Hector Welgampola 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.  Write 

Sri Lanka Cardinal Ranjith: Don’t politicize pope’s visit

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has urged the government and the opposition to refrain from using Pope Francis’ visit as a political tool, amid speculation that snap presidential polls will be declared early next year.

Full report in Daily FT

Slavery, World Day of Peace 2015 theme – Why is it relevant today?

(Vatican Radio)  The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has announced the theme selected by Pope Francis for the upcoming World Day of Peace.  The theme, “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters” will be the title of the Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January 2015.  It will mark the second time Pope Francis celebrates the Day of Peace since he has risen to the papacy.

Read the note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on why the theme is relevant today…

Asian bishops, clergy, pastoral workers and lay leaders through the tenth plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences  (X FABC Plenary Assembly) in Vietnam in 2012 had expressed concerns over old and “new forms of slavery,” including the abuse of human rights of refugees and migrant workers, as well as age-old traditions and cultural practices involving women and the girl child.

Updated: Pope backs use of force vs Islamic militants attacking religious minorities in Iraq – Fox News

Read full AP report from Fox News about what Pope Francis says about stopping an “unjust aggressor“, Aug. 18, 2014

A Vatican-approved transcript of Pope Francis’ airborne Press Conference from Korea records the pope saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.  I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”