Ecological Conversion as Stigmata of the Heart

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In May 2015, Pope Francis promulgated the papal encyclical, Laudato Si. Focusing primarily on today’s ecological crisis, he expounds on the ways in which humans have negatively impacted the earth, creation, and ultimately God. He stresses that the remedy to this crisis rests in the call for humans to have an ecological conversion. Decades earlier, ecological conversion was originally professed by Pope John Paul II, who had named St. Francis of Assisi the patron saint of ecology in 1979. St. Francis wrote The Canticle of the Creatures (also known as The Canticle of Brother Sun, among others) at the end of his life, when he was ill, and after he received the stigmata in a union with Jesus Christ. Amidst his suffering, St. Francis continued to be joyful, praising and thanking God, especially through and for creation. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis admirably uses the Canticle as a motivating, stepping stone for the ecological cause, but never explicitly mentions St. Francis’s stigmata. This paper contends that Pope Francis implicitly refers to the stigmata of St. Francis in his call for ecological conversion; and that, in the human relationship with God and creation, the message for ecological conversion represents itself as stigmata of the heart.

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