Over two years, one hilarious dove accident and countless acts of humility later, Pope Francis has established himself as the face of New Catholicism, directing the Church toward caring for the poor and marginalized, supporting one another and accepting all of God’s children into the fold.
As evidenced by his diplomacy work between the United States in Cuba, his outspoken stance on homosexuality and his first encyclical on our universal obligation to those in need, people, whether religious or non-religious, around the world see Pope Francis’ Church as a community that is accessible to us all.
Perhaps as a recent graduate from a Jesuit Catholic University, my perspective is skewed in his favor. Yet, I cannot help but see the Pope’s intervention in political and social affairs without feeling inherently called toward him—as if young people finally has an example of responsible leadership to follow.
My generation is currently launching into our twenties, and with that growth often comes an awakening to the realities of our society and the injustices existing with regards to environmental, social, economic, gender relation and sexual health issues. As we become advocates for radical social change, it is only natural that we would fall under the guidance of Pope Francis.
Furthermore, the Church is no longer a stagnant place of tradition and outdated values, but rather is modernizing and transforming under Pope Francis’ tutelage. Published on Wednesday, June 18, his most recent encyclical Laudato Si calls people everywhere to revolutionize cultural practices and values in time to address the impending environmental crisis.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home,” he writes, “includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”
The content of his piece is nothing new: every young person with a Tumblr and parent that’s seen An Inconvenient Truth knows we are bounding toward environmental disaster. His message of environmental protection and conservation is important because—when he speaks, grandmas and Republican leaders everywhere listen, and his decision to write an encyclical on environmental justice shows that he uses his position wisely.
Pope Francis’ call is inherently a hopeful one, a desire to bring our stratified human family together to confront looming environmental crisis. Yet, his commitment to environmental justice is only one example of his drive to unify.
As a young person with a passion for social justice and no interest in Catholicism, I see a lot of promise in Pope Francis’ teachings, as well as in a generation of recent graduates entering the workforce with an obligation to others in mind.
I hope Laudato Si—along with the Pope’s legacy of humility, inclusion and solidarity—can guide my age group toward making responsible decisions in our communities and leading just lives as adults, professionals, parents and citizens.
Author: Katie Smith
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: WikiMedia Commons / Casa Rosada