What Is the Pope’s Encyclical and Why Should Jews Care?



Today, the Vatican released Pope Francis’s encyclical titled Laudato Si, which roughly translates to Praised Be. The encyclical details a theology of “integrated ecology” – connecting care for the poor with environmental stewardship – leading many to call this an eco-encyclical, and Pope Francis the Green Pope. The document details specifically the human causes of climate change and our sacred obligation to care for our earth and combat climate disruption.

In many ways, the papal encyclical is very in line with the Reform Jewish Movement’s deep commitment to environmental justice, in both protecting our natural resources and the poor and vulnerable communities most strongly impacted by climate change. Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center, cited our sacred teaching that in the seventh year, we are obligated to “let our land rest” (Leviticus 25:2) in an article for OnFaith “A Rallying Cry for Interfaith Climate Action.” In the article he writes that:

“Our text reminds us to act compassionately toward our crop-producing earth for its benefit and ours. This year marks such a Sabbatical year, a reminder of our responsibility to the natural resources that sustain us.  However, our care for the earth does not begin or end in this seventh year. We live these values every day.”

Rachel Laser, the Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center, issued a statement today formally welcoming the Catholic community into continued work on climate change:

“We will continue to work with our Catholic counterparts on a local level through community efforts, and on a state and national level, urging for just state implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and for Congressional allocations for the Green Climate Fund. As Jews and as fellow people of faith, we see in the papal encyclical another crucial step forward towards demonstrating to our leaders that climate change is a moral issue and that mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is our faithful duty.”

You can read the full statement here.

While we are excited about the encyclical and working with our Catholic brothers and sisters on these vital issues, you may be wondering: What does the Pope’s statement mean for the Jewish community? And even: What is an encyclical in the first place? What does this one say about the environment and what are the implications for Catholics? For the major international climate negotiations taking place this December in Paris, France?

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, and Deputy Director, Rachel Laser, will join with US Conference of Catholic Bishops Director of Domestic and Social Development Mark Rohlena, and Catholic Climate Covenant Executive Director Dan Misleh to discuss these questions and more! Tune into the webcast at 1230pm on Wednesday, July 15 on rac.org/enviro and contact me here with any questions. You can also tell Congress that you care about protecting our earth and vulnerable communities by sending this action alert in support of the Green Climate Fund.

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Liya Rechtman

About Liya Rechtman

Liya Rechtman is a legislative assistant from Brooklyn, New York, where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Liya graduated from Amherst College.

One Response to “What Is the Pope’s Encyclical and Why Should Jews Care?”

  1. Dear Liya,

    A good statement of important work expressed. More power to you and RAC and keep up the good work!

    Be well; do good work; and I look forward to conversing more soon.

    Regards and Shalom,

    Thomas Rogers (208) 949-7807 (cell)

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