Reading Laudato Si' in the Philippines


This special edition marks the second instalment of a two-volume project on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home (LS) undertaken by Solidarity in partnership with the journal Philippiniana Sacra. Originally conceived as a joint endeavour to publish scholarly considerations of Laudato Si from contexts throughout the Asia-Pacific – a goal fulfilled in the release of the Philippiniana Sacra 2017 Special Issue 52:157 – the weight of submissions from scholars in the Philippines warranted a separate edition on reading Laudato Si from this singular national context..

The corpus here published by Solidarity in the Special Issue: Reading Laudato Si in the Philippines is grafted into a rich tradition of considerations on environmental justice from a Filipino Catholic perspective. Indeed, the first pastoral letter exclusively devoted to the environment from any conference of bishops worldwide was in 1988 from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).(1) Not insignificantly, Francis quotes from this letter in LS 41 in addressing the decline and degradation of coral reefs in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Framed much like a prophetic lament, the CBCP statement employed in LS 41 is a powerful reminder of the contextual gravity of life and death at stake in the issue of environmental justice: “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?” (2)

The essays published in this Solidarity Special issue are deeply contextual to the socio-environmental experience of the Philippines. This is in keeping with Francis’ emphasis on integral ecology (LS 4) that understands human life within the context of – and not separate from – the wider environment: “When we speak of the ‘environment’, what we really mean is a relationship between nature and the society which lives in it.” (LS 139, italics added) So it is that this collection depicts the relationship between the environment and specific aspects of Philippines’ society which abide within it, from cultural depictions of respect toward the Other (Meneses), dialogue with indigenous peoples (Kibiten), social movement advocacy for environmental care (Eballo), environmental disaster and justice for the poor (Canceran), and sustainable development in the context of integral ecology (Aguas).

Taken together, these essays also model the importance of contextual readings of religious text, including Papal encyclicals such as Laudato Si, as a means of deepening our understanding of sacral engagements with the socio-political challenges of our world. At a time when much scholarship in the West continues to be gripped by the deconstruction of ‘religion’ at institution and community levels, the present contributions model the importance of moving beyond the frozen endeavours of perpetual suspicion toward the more fecund and complex considerations of religious resources and the really existing communities that draw inspiration from them.

It has been an honour to work with the authors and the Managing Editor of Solidarity, Dr Rosemary Hancock. Congratulations to all.

John Rees, PhD (Special Issue Editor)

The Institute for Ethics and Society

The University of Notre Dame Australia

(1) Catholic Bishops’ Conference Of The Philippines, Pastoral Letter What is Happening to our Beautiful Land? 29 January, 1988.

(2) Ibid. p.4.