Subsidiarity, urban regeneration and car-pooling: some interesting aspects of Pope Francis’ last encyclical

Subsidiarity, urban regeneration and car-pooling: some interesting aspects of Pope Francis’ last encyclical


“Praise be to you, my lord” is the recently published encyclical written by Pope Francis. The sub-title is “on care for our common home”. “Care” and “common” made a ring bell here at LabGov, so we decided to take our time to read the text carefully and critically in order to understand the point of view of the Pope on these topics.

To be very clear the whole encyclical embrace many topics, spirituality and faith of course, but the whole structure is organized to put at the center our “common home”: the Earth. In the 6 chapters, the Pope challenges mainstream paradigms of our society, such as consumerism, short-termism and industrialisation at all costs. Climate change, water scarcity, air pollution and loss of biodiversity are just some of the consequences underlined.

More interesting to us, as LabGov, is when the analysis moves to human activities. Along these lines, on chapter 4, it is launched the concept of “cultural ecology”. Citing from the encyclical: “together with the patrimony of nature, there is also and historic, artistic and cultural patrimony (…). This patrimony is a part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build habitable city” (par.143).

This ecology is worth considering and needs to be fostered. It is the ecology of our daily life that makes us work for an “integral improvement” in the setting of our lives: our home, our workplace and our neighbourhoods. According to Francis, mega cities, the experience of overcrowding and social anonymity are creating social bombs within our societies; a communitarian salvation is possible only through creative ideas. Taking into consideration how important is the interrelationship between living space and human behaviour, often to save a building or a neighbourhood, can be enough to save a community. The same can be said for the necessity to protect common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes (par.149-150-151).

Another issue is the one of the importance of a re-balance between politics and economy; specifically in the light of our institutional framework. The Pope reminds us the principle of subsidiarity “which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good” (par.196).

The last part of the encyclical is devoted to the “environmental education” of a new “ecological citizenship”. Little daily actions can contribute directly to the world around us; among those cited – less consumption, social housing and so forth – there is, interestingly, car-pooling as an example of a successful sharing economy practice.

At the end of the day, the encyclical is an interesting read and a must read for all of us. It draws fully from a vast literature – religious and scientific – offering a fresh and inspiring insight on some of the most debated topics of our time. In particular, the focus on life in the cities – with the care and regeneration of urban landscapes, the re-thinking of common spaces and the development of sharing economy practices – is a much welcomed news for LabGov and the international community we are part of.

To read the encyclical: full text


“Laudato Si’” è il titolo della nuova enciclica di Papa Francesco. Il testo, di ampio respiro, prova a mettere in discussione il modello di sviluppo della nostra epoca a favore di una nuova ecologia integrale. Secondo il Papa, è necessario ribaltare questo modello con il fine ultimo di salvare la nostra casa comune, il pianeta. Interessante è l’attenzione dimostrata per le tematiche familiari anche a LabGov e la sua comunità internazionale: la vita nelle città, la cura degli spazi pubblici, e la promozione di pratiche di sharing economy. Sono queste le pratiche che, secondo il Papa, dovrebbero diffondersi tra i nuovi cittadini ecologici.


Marco Quaglia