Taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun” prayer praising God for creation, the likely name of the Pope’s upcoming encyclical was informally announced just weeks before its anticipated publication. Fr. Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House, reportedly announced the encyclical’s title during the delivery of the Cardinal Michele Giordano prize Saturday afternoon, May 30, in Naples. The prize honors the former archbishop of Naples, who died in 2010, and was inspired by his keen appreciation for the media. Expected to be published in mid-late June, the Pope's encyclical “Laudato sii” has already been written and is currently being translated. Although the title has not been officially confirmed, it will most likely contain the phrase coined by Pope Francis’ namesake in his famous prayer praising elements of creation such as “Brother Fire,” “Sister Moon” and “Mother Earth.” Also referred to as the Canticle of Creatures, the Canticle of the Sun was written by St. Francis of Assisi around the year 1224. The encyclical is also expected to be given the Italian subtitle: “Sulla cura della casa comune,” (On the care of the common home). Fr. Costa told SIR — the official news agency of the Italian Bishops Conference — May 30 that “There are many foreign publishers who are already interested in the publication of the encyclical in their countries.” Pope Francis himself spoke of the encyclical on his return flight from Seoul, South Korea last year, where he traveled Aug. 14-18 to participate in the 6th Asian Youth Day. While in route back to Rome Francis said that he had frequently spoken about the encyclical with Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is responsible for handling themes such as this. After being questioned about the encyclical by journalist Juergen Erbacher from German TV, the Pope said that he had “spoken a lot with Cardinal Turkson and also with others and I have asked Cardinal Turkson to bring together all of the contributions.” The Pope said then than the contributions had arrived and that a first draft of the encyclical — which he said was “a third bigger" than his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium — was delivered to him just four days before he left for South Korea. He told journalists that ecology is “not an easy issue because on the protection of creation and the study of human ecology, you can speak with sure certainty up to a certain point then come the scientific hypotheses some of which are rather sure, others aren't.” “In an encyclical like this that must be magisterial, it must only go forward on certainties, things that are sure,” he said, explaining that if the Pope decides to say that the earth is the center of the universe rather than the sun, then he’s wrong because he said something that’s scientifically untrue. “We need to make the study, number by number, and I think (the encyclical) will become smaller. But going to the essence is what we can affirm with certainty.” The encyclical could also have a huge weigh-in on talks surrounding climate change, and is expected to set a key ethical framework for discussion and policies surrounding the topic ahead of the Pope's address to the United Nations during his visit to the U.S. in September. Francis is set to address a U.N. Special Summit on Sustainable Development Sept. 25.
U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki Moon told journalists while in Rome April 28 for a summit on the theme of the environment and sustainable development that the Pope’s speech will have “a profound impact.” In a private meeting with Pope Francis ahead of the summit, the U.N. secretary-general said he told the Pope that he’s “looking forward to his encyclical as soon as possible…I count on his moral voice and moral leadership.” Pope Francis recently spoke of the importance of caring for creation during his May 24 homily for the feast of Pentecost. The feast serves an occasion to remind Christians of their duty to care for and respect the earth, he said, explaining that “the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.” “Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the 'garden' in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect.”