human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Faith and action

Integral Ecology: reflecting on Laudato Si’

Dear ‘Faith and Action’ reader,

Believers need to find occasions to speak with one another and to act together for the common good and the promotion of the poor. This has nothing to do with watering down or concealing our deepest convictions when we encounter others who think differently than ourselves…

Encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti, §282, Pope Francis

The above is just one of the many invitations in the new Encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti which Pope Francis signed yesterday in Assisi. This new encyclical appears just at the end of the Season of Creation in which, over this year, Christian communities worldwide have been acting and reflecting on the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living.

In this Faith and Action newsletter, we collected contributions from Theologians and from Caritas practitioners in line with the Caritas value Integral Ecology.

For this feast St Francis, we will first go to the article of Francis Stewart and Kezia Lavan of CAFOD. Francis reflects on the socio-economic vision that the Biblical Jubilee entails. What is being prescribed there, in theological terms, is that people and property should be returned to their proper places, and the earth to be restored to its proper state.  Kezia explains the problems faced by small scale, rural, family farmers in Paraíba, north-east Brazil. The COVID-19 crisis, for them, comes on top of many other socio-economic problems. The choice for agro-ecology of the farmers leads to an economically viable and environmentally friendly farming system.

Paul Bodenham of CSAN in the Diocese of Nottingham (UK) shares his experience in exploring how the Church, and Caritas itself, should respond to Laudato Si’. He takes us on a practical journey on how to promote the ecological conversion of our Caritas institutions, and the wider Church.  “It is the duty of the Church to focus upon human dignity and ask respect for each person and for the environment he and she are living in”, Msgr. Luc Van Looy writes in his contribution on integral ecology. Ellen Van Stichel in her article looks at dignified work as aspect of integral ecology. Protecting employment is indeed an indispensable part of integral ecology as said in Laudato Si’.

In Hungary, Caritas is putting Laudato Si’ into practice in the poorest rural areas of Southwest Hungary by combining dignified work in rural communities with the care for creation. The programme is named after Saint Izidore, the Saint of farmers, peasants, day labourers and agriculture in general, and coordinated by József Hideg. In Poland, Caritas Laudato Si’ travels around the country with the Mobile Embassy and invites people for workshops, conferences and exhibitions about ecology. Father Cordian Szwarc is the facilitator and Dominika Chylewska is the communicator of this programme, which already has some 120 grassroots projects in 12 dioceses, all led by volunteers of Caritas Poland.

Duncan MacLaren, in his contribution, looks at how integral ecology emerges from Pope Francis’s big picture of Integral Human Development (IHD). How integral ecology can be manifested by Caritas members in their humanitarian, social and development work, and how the term ‘sustainable development’ should be discarded and replaced by IHD which embraces integral ecology in a ‘thicker’ interpretation of development itself.

All these articles, contributions and reflections from different places and members illustrate how Laudato Si’ has influenced our work and how the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are interconnected.

Finally, I invite you all to join us in prayer together with the European Laudato Si Alliance (ELSiA) of which Caritas Europa has now become a member.

Enjoy reading and get inspired by all these stories of Faith and Action and by the new Encyclical Letter “Fratelli tutti” on which we will certainly return to very soon.

Happy Feast of Saint Francis!


Alternative Text


Marc Somers

Institutional Development Director
Caritas Europa


Short reflection from Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa




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about the platform

This platform provides a space for in-depth interdisciplinary and ecumenical reflection. The focus is on the relationship between the Catholic Church’s praxis and the social thought coming from various Caritas organisations. It allows for practical and academic exchange on how to better develop this relationship for the mutual benefit of all. The platform is designed around concrete urgent social themes, offering serious, respectful and innovative reflections on bridging religious praxis and contemporary societies. Faith and Action offers a forum for the voices of diverse people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It offers concrete examples, records current research and assesses the relevant literature.

The opinions expressed in the articles here are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of Caritas Europa.

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