Despite many claiming they helped to draft Pope Francis' new encyclical, the final text cannot be attributed to any 'hidden' advisors, says a former Vatican official. The proof, he says, is shown by the fact that the encyclical stands on the shoulders of previous magisterial teachings. The encyclical, “Laudato Si,” meaning “Praise be to You,” was published June 18. Its name is taken from St. Francis of Assisi's “The Canticle of the Sun.” In early 2014, the Vatican announced the Pope's plans to write on the theme of “human ecology” — a phrase that was originally coined by Benedict XVI. While the encyclical wades into controversial topics such as climate change, it also aggressively argues that it isn't possible to effectively care for the environment without first working to defend human life. Bishop Mario Toso of Faenza-Modigliana previously served as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, from 2009 until this January, when he was transferred to the small diocese in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region. While at the pontifical council, Bishop Toso was able to examine the encyclical's first draft. “There is no doubt that many contributions, many suggestions, have been forwarded for the drafting of the encyclical,” Bishop Toso noted to CNA June 17. On the other hand, he added, “any single contribution, if accepted, has been used in a framework that could not be provided by these single contributions — while it is provided from the continuity with the foregoing Magisterium.” Following the first rumors about the contents of the encyclical, the controversial Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff — one of the fathers of Liberation Theology, who has recently refocused his reflections onto the environment — said he had contributed to drafting the encyclical. Even the Brazilian theologians Frei Betto and Fr. Pedro Casaldiga allegedly gave their contribution in drafting the encyclical. Among the other alleged contributions to the encyclical, that of the former governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter. A member of the board of the Energy Foundation, he told “The Colorado Statesman” June 12 that he “did spend time in Rome meeting with the Vatican’s policy team drafting the Papal Encyclical.” The ‘team’ Bill Ritter referred to is probably one of the informal meetings set up by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences. These meetings provided suggestions for the much awaited encyclical, while many companies also sent to the Vatican materials on the way they protected environment, hoping for a papal endorsement. Despite there having been so many contributions, Bishop Toso maintained that the “ground framework of the encyclical is given by the continuity of the tradition of Catholic social teaching and by the work of the perhaps more invisible and less outspoken hands of people who work within the Vatican and who know quite well the social teaching of the Church.” “Only these people can talk about ecological issues standing on a theological, anthropological, and ethical point of view,” Bishop Toso maintained.
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