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Vatican establishes diplomatic relations with Mauritania

December 9, 2016. The Vatican will establish diplomatic relations with Mauritania. This African country is an Islamic Republic extremely hostile towards Christians.
Vatican

Vatican launches new website for the Protection of Minors from sex abuse

December 6, 2016. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) has launched a website to provide the public with information about their mission: "the effective protection of minors and a commitment to ensure their human and spiritual development.”
Pope Francis

These are the names of the 17 new cardinals the pope appointed at the consistory

November 19, 2016. 13 of them are under the age of 80, and thus able to vote in a hypothetical conclave, and four of them are non-electors.

Seven questions about the ecology encyclical you were afraid to ask

2015-06-09

When Pope Francis announced that his upcoming encyclical would focus on ecology, it immediately became one of the most talked about stories in the world. Not a word has been published, yet the encyclical has already received praise and criticism.

Here are answers to some key questions about the encyclical. 

What is an encyclical?

A papal encyclical is simply a letter written by a Pope. It can be addressed to anyone, from bishops to the entire world. Encyclicals are primarily used as an educational tool. 

Why does it matter?

Popes often communicate through written word. But the encyclical is a particularly important letter. It effectively becomes Catholic doctrine on a specific issue.

FR. PAUL O'CALLAGHAN
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
"It usually represents a moment of special solemnity or special wake, doctrinal wake. The Pope with the document in question is trying to say something, is trying to get a very clear mark to his papacy and say this is what I think, this is what I want the Church to do.”

How often are encyclicals published?

Encyclicals are a nearly 300-year-old tradition. The first one was published by Pope Benedict XIV in 1740. More than 300 encyclicals have been written since.

Pope John Paul II released 14, which averaged to about one every other year of his papacy. Pope Benedict XVI published three encyclicals during his nearly eight years as Pope. Pope Francis has already released one encyclical about faith. 

What's going to be in the next encyclical?

The document's name is "Laudato Sii” and is taken from a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi which praises God for the diversity of Creation. It translates to "Praised Be.”

He has made both political and moral statements about ecology.

POPE FRANCIS
November 8, 2014
Meeting with Italian Catholic Scouts
"Living in close contact with nature, as you do, involves not only having respect for it, but also the commitment to aid it. Specifically to eliminate the waste of a society that increasingly tends to dispose of goods that can still be used or that can be donated to people in need.”

POPE FRANCIS
October 28, 2014
Meeting World People's Movements
"It's logical: There can be no earth, there can be no ceiling, there can be no work if we don't have peace and if we keep destroying the planet.” 

POPE FRANCIS
November 8, 2014
Meeting with Catholic Scouts
"In our time, we cannot ignore the Ecology. It's vital for the survival of mankind. Nor can we reduce the issue to a purely political matter. This carries, a moral dimension that affects everyone. No one can afford to disregard this.” 
 
Why is it so controversial?

Much of the encyclical's expected content is not very controversial. It's generally agreed upon that respecting nature and taking care of the planet is a good thing.

But the document has become a lightning rod for political debate because Pope Francis is expected to take an official stance on climate change and encourage governments to act. 

Cardinal Peter Turkson helped Pope Francis draft the document. He weighed in on the controversy at a recent press conference.

CARD. PETER TURKSON 
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
"Some critics want to remind us that we went to the seminary to save souls and not to get involved with these types of issues. But it's really about how well people are convinced of this scientific data that says that the climate is changing. That is where the fight is.”

Is Pope Francis' focus on ecology groundbreaking?

Yes and no.

Of the hundreds of encyclicals, none have ever focused exclusively on ecology. However, the two Popes who came before Pope Francis have made similar arguments about the environment broadly, and climate change specifically. 

More than 25 years ago, Pope John Paul II said that the depletion of the ozone layer had reached "crisis proportions.” Pope Benedict XVI was known as the "Green Pope,” and his Pontifical Academy of Sciences formally urged governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions. 

Will this change anything?

The encyclical's release was intentionally planned to come ahead of a major international climate conference later this year. 

FR. PAUL O'CALLAGHAN
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
"I will say it will influence a good bit. Now, people have their own agenda and their own ideas...But I would say it will have an influence, and I think that the fact of the encyclical has been provoking a lot of debate in different parts of the world, at a secular level and also in the Catholic Church itself.”

After all the analysis, debate, and conversation, the encyclical will eventually speak for itself. It will be published June 18th. 


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