The message from recent documents of the Franciscan Order is clear: commitment to what is now called JPIC – Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation – is “part of our DNA, of our spirituality, and is one of the characteristic elements of our charism”.
From the beginning of his Petrine Ministry, Pope Francis made it clear that his choice of his papal name was indicative of his concern for what may be called “JPIC issues”. And in his historic encyclical “on the care of our common home” he confirms the profound and all-embracing implications of our Gospel discipleship.
His radical teaching draws its title from the opening words of the Canticle of the Creatures - Laudato si. It goes on to speak of the Poverello’s vision of how to live on this earth as God’s child in fellowship with all other creatures. Indeed, the Pope reflects the saint's spirit and wisdom throughout the document.
While the encyclical is popularly referred to as a climate change encyclical, it is first and foremost about human relationships. The Pope writes, “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself.” Violate any of these relationships, and we offend God, promote injustice, and exploit our home.
Other religious Orders would be delighted with this celebration of their particular tradition. It certainly provides the friars with a graced opportunity to embrace more fully what has been passed on to us as our heritage and mission.
Bill Short OFM writing of our Franciscan faith vision says, “People seek an alternative language, an alternative way of looking at the human person, at Christ, salvation and creation. We have a hopeful word, a distinctly Franciscan voice, to speak to the concerns of our day.”
May this encyclical help the Friar Minors rediscover with confidence our full “Franciscan voice” and so inform, inspire and influence our thinking and our actions.