Pope's encyclical draws interest from the interfaith community in Utah
Friday, Jul. 03, 2015
Jean Hill, government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, speaks to an interfaith group on June 24 about Pope Francis' encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." IC photo/Marie Mischel
SALT LAKE CITY — A week after Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was released, several dozen people from diverse faith communities in Utah gathered at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Pastoral Center to learn more about the document.
“Even as a Jew I have always admired this pope and the last pope. I’ve thought that they’ve been really forward-looking men and are very spiritually attuned to the universe, so I’ve appreciated them and I’ve prayed for them,” said Leslie Dorius-Jones, co-secretary of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, who was among those who attended the June 24 event.
“Laudato Si’” interested her because “We Jews have a mandate to repair the world – ‘tikkun olam’ – and that means in all aspects, whether it be social, environmental personal, you name it,” she said, and she was interested to learn how the encyclical might tie into helping educating people “to realize that we are just here having a very earthbound experience to learn as much as we can before we go back to our spiritual home.”
Jean Hill, government liaison for the Catholic diocese, gave a brief overview of the encyclical, which is, in Church parlance, a “prudential judgement.”
“When a pope makes a prudential judgement, we as Catholics owe that judgement our thoughtful, prayerful consideration,” Hill said. “We are to be open to that judgement, we are to take time to think about that judgement, and not just say, ‘Oh, that’s just a political judgement, we don’t care.’ That’s not an act of faith.”
Still, the encyclical “is addressed to all people, not just Catholics,” Hill said, pointing out that the document focuses on climate change, its impact on poverty and the poorest countries in our world. “If this is an area of interest to you, an area of concern to you, and you are a person of faith, it is a very inspiring document. It is a call to action for all of us,” she said.
The encyclical’s three main themes are “we have a common home, we need to work toward a common good and we need to work toward a global solution,” said Hill, adding that “there is a lot of great commentary in there that … could certainly be used outside of the Catholic Church.”
After Hill’s presentation, those present discussed ways in which the suggestions in the encyclical could be incorporated in their faith communities and beyond.
“Faith communities must embrace these things as their sacred values that are driven by our faith,” said Pastor Curtis Price of Salt Lake City’s First Baptist Church. “Preachers need to preach about them, priests need to homilize about them.”
Susan Soleil, executive director of Utah Interfaith Power & Light, which cosponsored the event with the Catholic diocese, said she felt it was important to have an interfaith discussion about the encyclical because Pope Francis’ words “really are to all humanity, and as all people of faith we can take his words and incorporate them into our lives, whether we are Muslim or Hindu or Sikh or Christian or Buddhist.”
Climate change must be addressed, Soleil said, because “we’ve got to get a stable climate in order to have water and food and education for everyone on this planet.”